Quentin-Matsys-A-Grotesque-old-woman-collage

The following excerpt – Hallucination – is from a book Fin del Mundo por de Dentro written by Francisco de Quevedo during the 17th century. It is about a woman removing all her makeup before bed. He says that, in order to successfully deceive the eyes of a beholder and create an illusion of a pretty woman her secret is to use ‘’black concoctions for her teeth, ‘earwax candles for her lips’ and ‘sousing her skin in brine’.

 The wicked beauty products described here are, obviously, fruits of the author’s imagination. As satirical and exaggerated it is, it’s true that after all these centuries women still ‘souse’ themselves in a myriad of ‘undulations’ and ‘concoctions’. As a woman who owns a good many ‘beautifying bottles’, I can only sympathize with poor Laida.
She was clearly just trying to fit in the image of a ‘pretty woman’ defined by her age.

Do you see this hallucination? Laida went to bed and this morning she put on her makeup by herself. Now she’s acting a bit odd. You should know that women, as soon as they wake up, first put on their faces, their décolleté and their two hands, and then their clothes.

Everything you see in her is shop bought and is not the work of nature. You see her hair? Well, she bought that too, it didn’t grow by itself. Her eyelashes are more sooty than black, and if noses were made like eyelashes she wouldn’t have one at all. Those teeth you can see, and her mouth, are black as an inkwell thanks to the concoctions she uses. Her earwax has been shifted from her ears to her lips, which are now two little candles. And what about her hands? What looks white is really grease.

What a sight it is too see a woman, who the next day must go out to be admired, sousing herself in brine the night before, and going to sleep with her face covered in cream, only to paint her flesh the next day at her pleasure!

Collection of excerpts, illustrations, and artworks from Antiquity to modern day that attempt to define what’s ‘scary’, ‘horrible’, ‘ugly’, ‘monstrous’ and ‘devilish’.
What we call ‘ugly’ is variable, what we consider ‘beautiful’ also fades over time. But what doesn’t seem to change is our tendency to project our ‘inner-ugliness’ on things that are beyond our very human vanity, hatred, and narrow-mindedness.
By examining the history of scapegoat characters we made-up, such as ancient monsters, spooky gargoyles, and evil witches, the author suggests, perhaps, ‘ugliness’ too, is in the eye of a beholder.

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