|A cluster of Face Screens I arranged on the dining room table.|
|A bunch on both sides of my closet door.|
|These are all pairs.|
Most cosmetic products available were still either chemically dubious or found in the kitchen amid food coloring like berries and beetroot. Burnt match sticks were used to darken the eyelashes and geranium and poppy petals stained the lips. A product called " paper powder" came in books of colored paper and pressed against the cheeks or nose,the leaves of powder removed shine from the face. Ravaged by age,a high carbohydrate diet,very little exercise,combined with living in a dirty polluted atmosphere and sickness like smallpox, all made for the decline of a ladies beauty.
|Carved bone handle-(cattle-bovine-species)|
|Victorian Needlepoint Bead work.|
It must have been hard in those days and I can see where the term, "A True beauty", came from. If through all this a lady could still be consider,beautiful, she must have truly been so!! So often when you see portraits of ladies of this period there skin is painted to look almost white. Now we see why.
I have heard lots of stories about why the Victorians made and used Face Screens. Often when I tour a Historic Home and they have one, the tour guide will say it was to keep there makeup from melting from the heat of the fire. Once in awhile a lady would be forced to wear a heavy makeup. Some times after having smallpox the face would have heavy pits, and wax mixed with baking flour would be used to hide these marks. I would say that the fire place fire would have to be so hot to melt this wax based makeup, that the face would also be burnt. So I can hardly believe this tale. Now,it does make sense that the lady did not want her face to be red and the fire might do that, so a face screen would be held between her face and the fireplace. I like to use this example when I guide a tour at My Old Historic House. think of a hot dog roast when you were a child. You had to stand close enough to the fire to cook the hot dog, and your face became very warm and flush and you would often hold your hand between your face and the fire. This is what a face screen would do.
|Hand painted on a heavy paper like card board surface.|
|Hand painted on tin or some type of metal.|
Face Screens were very popular in Europe, where social class was very much alive and taken very seriously. In American, ladies who had traveled to Europe might be aware of this trend. Most Face Screens were made by hand in small cottage industry factories.Handles were made of painted and gilded wood, metal,bone,ivory and sometimes sterling silver and real gold. These handles were sold and the frames were made of needlepoint and attached. Some factories did produce face screens, especially in the Orient, where they were often made of Paper Mache' and then hand decorated.
|They really knew how to paint. I love the poly-chrome colors.|
I don't know why I have a thing for them. I found my first pair at a small antique tag sale in St.Louis. I thought they were fans to cool a lady. I have to admit, I was a little slow and backward about such things in my early days of collecting. After learning what they were, I became more and more aware of them and started to collect them. I don't see them a lot around these parts. I do find them on Ebay and other online auctions. I am afraid they are to expensive for me these days, but I guess I really have enough. I loaned them out a few years back when a mini series was made in St.Louis. It was a period production and the beginning was set in the middle 1800's. The series was called, "A Woman of Means."
I hope you enjoy the Face Screens as much as I have enjoyed collecting them. Come by any time for a tour of My Old Historic House, I will leave the lights on and we will build a big fire in the fire place and all have a Face Screen Adventure. And don't forget Sissy Dog, she will meet you with a jump and a kiss. And don't forget the June Issue of Victorian Homes Magazine is coming out in the next week or so and it will have a 12 page feature of My Old Historic House.I hope you'll get a copy and visit us there.Should be on news stands by the end of April!