Beauty in Bath: Ravishing Romans and Gorgeous Georgians
When I had the idea to explore some of the beauty regimes that the citizens of Bath endured in the past, it made sense for me to focus on the two periods that the city is most known for: the Roman and the Georgian.
I had my “Roargian”, the roaring Roman-Georgian displayed: a figure of a woman half Roman and half Georgian. The left half, the Roman side, included gold jewellery, braided hair, and clothing including her stola and tunic. The right half, the Georgian side, included a beauty patch, a sack back dress, and lace gloves. Overall, the Roargian demonstrated that the Romans and Georgians had completely different clothing tastes!
I divided my table, like my “Roargian”, in to two halves; one side Roman and one side Georgian, with a “beauty ingredient station for each” describing makeup and skincare concoctions; this made me realise the differences, between the two periods and our own. The Roman’s used urine as mouthwash, whilst the Georgians used lead-based face powders which caused poisoning, neither of these ingredients are things we would use today!
As well as the ingredients, I also had related objects on my table. All my Roman objects were bronze, a popular metal of the time, and included bracelets, brooches, rings and tweezers, just like we use today. The Georgian objects included ceramic and metal wig curlers; wigs were the height of fashion in this period, so these would have been a must for the social climber of the time (or their servants).
Romans and Georgians desired to uphold social expectations of beauty and had a certain idealised look they were trying to achieve. The Romans were more holistic in their approach whereas the Georgian approach was based on achieving a certain aesthetic and they did not care about a daily bath! Yet, there were similarities between the two in the beauty ingredients used: rosewater, lavender, urine, lead, crushed bugs, animal poo, and vinegar. Some of these ingredients are still used today—hopefully animal poo isn’t one of them!
What I enjoyed the most about this project was how it ignited a dialogue about our beauty practices today. Has our culture really changed that much in its quest to look beautiful? Although I perceive the majority of the beauty rituals of the Romans and Georgians as odd, is our culture just as odd, if not odder? We live in a world where we can easily get an eyebrow transplant to mimic the eyebrows of Cara Delevingne, lip fillers to copy the lips of Kylie Jenner, and facial reconstruction surgery so we can have Angeline Jolie’s cheekbones. This leaves me to wonder if maybe we are the weird ones.
Learning and Programmes Placement