Ancient cosmetics

Exhibition spotlight: ancient Egyptian cosmetics at Johns Hopkins

Here's another short post since my schedule got completely screwed up...I've been working on some more in-depth things and once again I've completely underestimated how long they were going to take.  But in the meantime, I wanted to share a great piece of makeup history that's right here in Baltimore!  For now, anyway.  I knew about Johns Hopkins University's Homewood Museum, but had no idea they also had an extensive archaeological museum.  In 2010 they were the fortunate recipients of a long-term loan of the Myers Collection from Eton College.  The collection consists of nearly 2,000 ancient Egyptian objects, including cosmetic artifacts. A special exhibition, Providing for the Afterlife:  Ancient Egyptian Works from Eton College, highlighted some of these magnificent specimens. 

Faience kohl pot, ca. 1550-1295
Faience kohl pot, New Kingdom, 18th Dynasty, ca. 1550-1295 BCE

While it's not clear whether these items were intended for this life or the next, it's entirely possible they were entombed with their owners to prepare them in the afterlife.  The next time someone tells you makeup is frivolous, kindly direct them to this exhibition.  Egyptians thought cosmetics were such a necessity that they went out of their way to ensure the deceased would still be able to access them, right alongside representations of food and water production.  As Hopkins graduate Dr. Ashley Fiutko Arico points out, "Items associated with personal adornment, such as the cosmetic items displayed here, were particularly favored. Many of these examples were expertly crafted luxury goods of intrinsic beauty. Although it is unknown whether or not the specific examples on display here were buried with their owners, numerous examples like them have been found in funerary contexts, suggesting that this was likely the case. A selection of cosmetic vessels in a variety of shapes and materials evokes the importance attached to makeup, scented oils, and ointments."

This is a pretty nifty wood and ivory kohl tube with a swivel lid.  As we know, kohl was used for both cosmetic and medicinal purposes, helping to shield one's eyes from insects and the sun's glare.

Wood and ivory kohl tube with a swivel lid
Wood and ivory kohl tube, New Kingdom, 18th Dynasty, ca. 1550-1295 BCE

How elegant is this palm column-shaped kohl tube?

Wood kohl tube in the shape of a palm column
Wood kohl tube, New Kingdom, 18th Dynasty, ca. 1550-1295 BCE

Not quite the most ergonomic design for application, but I bet this metal stick did scrape every last bit out of the kohl tube.

Metal kohl stick, New Kingdom, ca. 1550-1069 BCE
Metal kohl stick, New Kingdom, ca. 1550-1069 BCE

I wonder what this cosmetics box held!  The really great thing about the exhibition is that x-rays and other technical studies were performed by the students for each object.  So while we can't say for sure what this box contained, we know both the interior and exterior were painted, plus the students got to have some serious hands-on technical experience.

Wood cosmetics box, New Kingdom, Late 18th-19th Dynasty, ca. 1336-1186 BCE
Wood cosmetics box, New Kingdom, Late 18th-19th Dynasty, ca. 1336-1186 BCE

Based on "visible infrared luminescence imaging", the students were able to determine that the outer part of the box was painted with Egyptian blue, the first synthetic pigment.  All of the white areas in the photo below were painted with this vibrant blue, while it is speculated that the interior was painted with yellow.  I can only imagine how amazing this box must have looked in its original state.

Wood cosmetics box, New Kingdom, Late 18th-19th Dynasty, ca. 1336-1186 BCE
Wood cosmetics box, New Kingdom, Late 18th-19th Dynasty, ca. 1336-1186 BCE

(all images from archaeologicalmuseum.jhu.edu)

While these are wonderful objects, it's unclear if the Eton collection was ethically formed.  All I could find online was that Major William Joseph Myers "gathered" the items while stationed in Egypt and bequeathed them to Eton upon his untimely death in 1899.  Is "gathering" another word for stealing or looting, or otherwise exploiting Egyptians in some way?  Everything I've seen presents Myers as a collector who was interested in Egyptian art, so it's very likely he simply purchased the objects from local dealers - I doubt any sort of blatant tomb-raiding was taking place.  But who knows for sure?  In trying to find more information about the collection and whether these objects ended up in Myers' possession in an ethical manner*, I was also reminded of the vast Egyptian collection at Manchester, which makes me second guess purchasing the book detailing all the Egyptian palettes from the University of Manchester Museum's collection.  I want to learn more about ancient Egyptian cosmetics, or if hell freezes over be in a financial position to actually purchase an artifact, but I'm questioning how it can be done responsibly when the provenance of most of these objects is unclear or worse, definitely stolen or otherwise obtained at the expense of the original owner or native country.  This of course opens a huge can of worms about where any and all museum objects come from, which is a conversation for another time (although I have mentioned it briefly before.)

Thorny moral questions aside, these objects are fantastic and should it ever be safe to visit a museum again - hopefully sometime within the next 5 years, as the loan from Eton expires in 2025 - I may have to swing by Hopkins and see if there are any other cosmetic items on display.  What's your favorite item here?  Would you want to be buried with some makeup? I'm getting cremated so it's a non-issue for me, but I might entertain the notion of having a few pieces incinerated with my carcass. Ha!

 

*The only article I found related to the ethics of the Myers collection/museum indicated that 454 objects were returned to Egypt in 2009, but these were not objects collected by Myers himself; they were the gift of another donor in 2006.  


Book review: Painted Faces: A Colorful History of Cosmetics

Painted Faces: A Colorful History of Cosmetics by Susan Stewart
Before I get to my review of Susan Stewart's Painted Faces, I must disclose that I received a copy for free from the author.  In no way, shape or form did getting it for free influence my review, nor was it intended as a bribe for a positive one - I believe I was given a copy in exchange for me lending photos of some of the Museum's collection to be included in the book.  Not only did Dr. Stewart provide an autograph, she also included me in the acknowledgements, which was incredibly kind.

Painted Faces: A Colorful History of Cosmetics by Susan Stewart

Painted Faces: A Colorful History of Cosmetics by Susan Stewart

Again though, I'd like to reiterate that this did not sway my opinion of the book at all.  Now that that's out of the way, I can dive into the review.

The goal of Painted Faces is much the same as Lisa Eldridge's Face Paint in that it strives to provide a history of makeup from ancient times to the present day.  However, a trained scholar/historian approaches this vast topic in a markedly different way than a makeup artist such as Eldridge.  Neither perspective is better or worse than the other; ways to tell the story of makeup are nearly as varied as the people who wear it.  Nor do I believe one has to have a set of particular credentials to write accurately and compellingly about makeup history, as I believe it comes down to a matter of preference for a certain writing style.  As we saw with her first book, Painted Faces is more academic than Face Paint and relies on highlighting the economic and sociological aspects behind various beauty practices, whereas Eldridge adopts a more artistic tone, choosing instead to communicate makeup's history by focusing on application and styles as they evolved. 

Stewart begins with an introduction (which also serves as the first chapter) summarizing the need to study makeup and beauty practices as it gives valuable insight into history that we may not have considered before.  "Because of its wider significance, researching makeup, its uses, ingredients, its context and application, can provide clues not only to the nature and circumstance of the individual but can also help us to interpret the social, economic and political condition of society as a whole in any given period.  That is to say, studying cosmetics can further our understanding of history...they are a window into the past and can encapsulate the hopes and ideas of the future.  In short, makeup matters" (p. 8 and 10).  Can I get an amen?!  Stewart also carefully sets the parameters for the book, outlining the sources used and why she is primarily writing about cosmetics in the Western world.

Chapter 2 is essentially a condensed version of Stewart's previous tome on cosmetics in the ancient world, which doesn't need to be rehashed here (you can check out my review of that one to peruse the content).  That's no small feat, considering how thorough it was.  The next chapter covers the Middle Ages, which is interesting in and of itself since so little information about makeup and beauty exist from this era.  As Stewart points out, the rise of Christianity meant people were no longer being interred with their possessions as they were in ancient Greece and Rome - these artifacts provided a wealth of knowledge about beauty practices then.  Thus, any time after the spread of Christianity and before the modern age historians must rely primarily on texts, such as surviving beauty recipes and classic literature, rather than objects to infer any information about the use of makeup and other beauty items.  The dominance of this religion also meant even more impossible beauty standards for women and more shame for daring to participate in beauty rituals.  "According to medieval religious ideology, wearing makeup was not only the deceitful and immoral - it was a crime against God" (p. 60).  The other interesting, albeit twisted way Christianity affected beauty is the relentless belief that unblemished skin = moral person.  Something as innocuous as freckles were the mark of the devil, and most women went to great lengths to get rid of them or cover them so as not be accused of being a witch.  I shudder thinking about those who were affected by acne.

Chapter 4, which discusses beauty in the late 15th and early 16th centuries (i.e., approximately the Renaissance) presents the continuation of certain beauty standards - pale, unblemished skin on both the face and hands, a high forehead, barely there blush and a hint of natural color on the lips- as well as judgement of those who wore cosmetics.  As we saw previously, it's the old "look perfect but don't use makeup to achieve said perfection" deal - women who wore makeup were viewed as dishonest, vain sinners.  But one's looks mattered greatly in the acquisition of a husband, so many women didn't have a choice.  "Clearly a woman had to get her makeup just right not simply for maximum effect but to avoid getting it wrong and spoiling the illusion of youth and beauty entirely, a fault that could cost her dearly in terms of wealth, status and security" (p. 94). 

However, there were some notable differences between the Renaissance and medieval periods.  For starters, due to inventions such as the printing press, beauty recipes were able to be much more widely disseminated than they were previously.  Increased trade meant more people could get their hands on ingredients for these recipes.  Both of these developments led to women below the higher rungs of society (i.e. the middle class) to start wearing cosmetics.  So widespread was cosmetics usage at this point, Stewart notes, that the question became what kind of makeup to wear instead of whether to wear it at all. 

This chapter was probably the most similar to those on Renaissance beauty in Sarah Jane Downing's book, Beauty and Cosmetics: 1550-1950.  Given the lack of information regarding cosmetics during this time period, both authors had to draw on the same sources to describe beauty habits.  However, as with Eldridge, the approaches Downing and Stewart take are slightly different.  Once again, Stewart opts for a straighter historical approach whereas Downing looks more to paintings and literature of the time, and doesn't take quite as deep a dive into the larger social and economic forces at work.  There's also not much overlap between the descriptions of recipes and techniques, as you'll find different ones in each book.  For example, one that was mentioned only in passing in Downing's book was using egg white to set makeup. I'm thinking of it as a early version of an illuminating setting spray (although obviously it was brushed on, not sprayed in a bottle) as it lent a slightly luminous, glazed sheen.  Stewart points out that it also caused one's face to crack, thereby eliminating the wearer's ability to make any sort of facial expression.  It seems certain beauty treatments, whether egg white or Botox, occasionally come with the side effect of suppressing women's expression of emotion.  Coincidence?  I think not.

Chapters 5 and 6 are tidily sequential, discussing beauty during the the 17th and 18th centuries, respectively.  As in the Renaissance, both eras witnessed significant growth in the number of women who wore makeup due to technological advances and increased trade.  Growing literacy rates drove demand for the new medium of ladies' magazines. Pharmacies selling raw materials to make beauty treatments had started to crop up in the 17th century and their numbers increased dramatically by the beginning of the 18th century.  Not only that, pharmacies and chemists started offering their own pre-made formulas, and these goods became commercially exported to other countries.  The widespread sale of these products came with several undesirable effects:  counterfeit cosmetics and downright false claims about the product's efficacy. 

The 1700s also saw the rise of excessive, decidedly unnatural makeup being worn by members of the aristocracy in both France and England, followed by a post-French Revolution return to more subtle makeup in the early 1800s. This brings us to Chapter 7, which outlines the myriad changes leading to what would become the modern beauty industry, including department stores, industrialization and the new commercial market of the U.S.  As for beauty standards, a natural look was still strongly preferred by both men and women, with the emphasis in terms of products on skincare rather than color cosmetics.  Here's a literal lightbulb moment:  despite my research on Shiseido's color-correcting powders, in which I learned some were meant to counterbalance the effects of harsh lighting, I had completely overlooked the influence of artificial light on the skyrocketing production of face powders.  "Suffice it to say that in the early years of the twentieth century, the use of artificial light in homes of the wealthy as well as in public places such as theatres and concert halls would become more widespread, in the latter years of the nineteenth century there was already an understanding that to make the best impression, makeup needed adjusting to suit the light, whether it be natural or artificial" (p.198).

Chapter 8 leads us into the 20th century.  While there are more detailed accounts of makeup during this time, Stewart does an excellent job describing the major cultural and technological influences that shaped modern beauty trends and the industry as a whole.  I was very impressed with how she was able to narrow down the key points about 20th century beauty without regurgitating or simply summarizing other people's work.  Some of the information presented is familiar, of course, but the manner in which it's arranged and categorized sets it apart.  It just goes to show that everyone's individual background equals an infinite number of ways to tell the story of makeup.

I'm partial to this chapter since the items I took photos of for the book are all from the 20th century.  :) 

Painted Faces: A Colorful History of Cosmetics by Susan Stewart

Here are some powder boxes on the dust jacket. 

Painted Faces: A Colorful History of Cosmetics by Susan Stewart

Painted Faces: A Colorful History of Cosmetics by Susan Stewart

While I was deliriously happy to see some of the Museum's items in a real published book and get credited for them, I was also pleased to see photos of other pieces as well.  Their inclusion in addition to illustrations was a bit of an upgrade to Stewart's previous book.  This is a minor issue to be sure, as I believe solid writing more than makes up for a lack of photos, but they are a nice touch if available.

Painted Faces: A Colorful History of Cosmetics by Susan Stewart

The last chapter serves as an addendum in which Stewart reflects on how the past, present and future of beauty are linked, noting that while some things have stayed the same - the use of ancient ingredients in modern formulas, the connection between health and beauty - 21st century attitudes towards cosmetics represent a significant change from earlier times.

Overall, this is a more scholarly history of makeup than we've seen before, but by no means dry and boring.  Stewart's gift for wading through hundreds of historical documents and neatly consolidating the major social, economic and cultural forces that shaped makeup's history, all while sharing fascinating snippets such as ancient beauty recipes and anecdotes from people who lived during the various eras she covered, makes for a thoroughly engaging read. 

Will you be picking this one up? 

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Book review: Cosmetics and Perfumes in the Roman World

Cosmetics and Perfumes in the Roman World

I don't know how this tome managed to slip under my beauty book radar.  I wasn't aware that this little gem existed until the author followed me on Twitter.  Much has been written about the modern beauty age (20th-21st centuries), but there are not many in-depth resources available on beauty practices prior to that.  Fortunately, Dr. Susan Stewart, an independent scholar and librarian at Scotland's Broxburn Academy, is here to help fill in the gaps.  Drawing on literary texts, visual arts and material objects as primary source material, Cosmetics and Perfumes in the Roman World presents a thorough history of makeup and fragrance usage during the Roman Empire (roughly 1-300 A.D.) 

The introduction also serves as Chapter 1, which is an overview of the author's sources, geographic areas and time period that are covered - basic but necessary.  Chapter 2 is probably my favorite, since it summarizes the ingredients used in cosmetics as well as the beauty ideals of the time.  Empresses and mythical goddesses set the beauty standards that most women aspired to.  Unsurprisingly, the key beauty goals for women were identical to today's - clear skin, large eyes and silky hair.  And lest you think our obsession with a youthful appearance is a fairly new scourge, this chapter highlights several recipes for wrinkle creams and hair dyes. Even some ingredients haven't changed much; mascara and brow filler were made from soot, which is almost identical to what we think of as the first modern mascara concoction.  Stewart also notes that most of the recipes and techniques date back even further, as the Romans borrowed them from the ancient Egyptians.

Chapter 3 tackles the health and hygiene aspects of Roman beauty products.  While I prefer reading about actual face paint, this chapter is important since it provides the foundation (see what I did there?) for understanding modern cosmetics.  Since its infancy the beauty industry has linked good health with attractiveness:  glowing skin, bright eyes, a pleasant scent and white, even teeth are all still considered markers of beauty.  If one was beautiful and smelled nice they must be healthy and vice versa.  "One's appearance in general is improved by good health and reflects good health; making health a constituent of beauty and beauty in turn a constituent of health" (p.51).  One of the most interesting pieces of proof of this belief among the Romans were the images of Venus commonly displayed at bath houses.

Whereas the previous chapters laid out the what and the how, the next two chapters examines the who and the why, i.e. the differences in use of beauty and hygiene products based on gender, race and class power structures, along with society's perception of women who used cosmetics.  Needless to say, by and large women were heavily critiqued for wearing makeup for the same reasons we see today.  "A woman displayed her inferiority by feeling compelled to improve upon her appearance, her weakness by being tempted by luxury (in the form of expensive beauty products), her obsession with sex by trying to make herself attractive to men other than her husband, her deviousness by disguising her true appearance with makeup and finally, her idleness by having too much time to spend on personal grooming" (p.65).  Once again women who wear makeup are vain and shallow, and women generally were expected to look perfect but not use any beauty aids.  Same old story, right?  Sadly, it wasn't really any better for men; Stewart notes that men who were overly prettified by society's standards were seen as effeminate and unfit to perform traditional men's work. Despite all of these negative perceptions, literally hundreds of makeup/perfume containers and application utensils have been recovered from Roman ruins over the years, which serves as hard evidence that most people engaged in beautification and grooming practices.  However, while these items were widely used, class played a significant role in the types of products and their application.  As was the case in the early 20th century, a more "natural" look achieved with higher quality ingredients was a mark of the middle and upper classes, while heavy makeup and scent made from cheap, readily available sources were associated with prostitutes (obviously, since the latter couldn't afford more expensive beauty products.)

The last chapter explores the notion of luxury as it relates to cosmetics and perfumes during the Roman empire.  As noted previously, given their widespread use among different economic classes, most beauty products weren't luxury items. Male philosophers (especially those damn Stoics) believed makeup and fragrance to be highly unnecessary and therefore luxury goods, but physical evidence suggests this wasn't a widely held view.  While empresses and other high-class women used only the "good stuff" made from extremely pricey ingredients, there were many options available at all price points.  And this range isn't reflected only in the ingredients but in the containers as well; everything from silver, bronze and clear, colorless glass (high-end) to blue-green glass (the most inexpensive type of container) was used to store beauty products. 

All in all, this is a well-researched and fascinating read, and most importantly, it's accessible for the masses.  Despite all of the classic literature and art history references, Stewart makes it easy for non-academics to understand.  The information is presented in a straightforward yet compelling manner, i.e. there was no boring, bland spouting of one fact after another but rather a narrative that flowed from describing the basics (makeup ingredients, utensils, etc.) to more complex ideas (the cultural and political climate that influenced why and how they were used.)  Also, even though I shouldn't be, I'm amazed (and a bit sad) by how little things have changed; beauty standards are still more or less the same as they were 2,000 years ago, despite current efforts to diversify them.  My only critique is that I would have liked to have seen more photos rather than illustrations.  The drawings were able to communicate the ideas and objects well enough, but they lacked the visual impact photos would bring.  I'm assuming museums wanted exorbitant fees to use their photos so the author had no choice but to use illustrations.  

Will you be picking this one up?  Oh, I almost forgot - Stewart has a new publication on cosmetics history coming out in December, which obviously is already at the top of my Christmas list.  ;)  Keep your eyes peeled!


Book review: Face Paint: A History of Makeup by Lisa Eldridge

Face Paint by Lisa Eldridge

I had been salivating over this book since I found out the release date way back in the spring, and it did not disappoint.  Celebrity makeup artist Lisa Eldridge published a broad yet fairly in-depth summary of cosmetic products and usage from ancient times to today.

Section 1 is divided into three sections detailing the history of the base colors historically used for cosmetics:  red, white and black.  Eldridge covers not only the ingredients used to make these pigments but also traces exactly how they were used in various eras, i.e. how rouged cheeks and lips, fair complexions and black eye liner were trending (or not) throughout history.  Equally impressive is that these first two categories weren't simply a parroting of the information in Lips of Luxury, or the powder history in Ode to the Complexion (which I will get around to reviewing eventually.)

Section 2 focuses on all aspects of how the beauty industry developed into the one we know today, beginning with the evolution of cosmetics marketing and advertising.  I know what you're thinking - this section probably started with the late 1800s/early 1900s, but you'd be wrong.  Eldridge traces beauty marketing all the way back to the Renaissance, dissecting how the messages contained in beauty advertising changed over time.  The second part of this section discusses the big beauty company founders like Max Factor, Helena Rubinstein, and Elizabeth Arden.  But there were some unexpected bios of the women who began more indie lines, like Mary Quant and Barbara Hulanicki, who started Biba.

Face Paint by Lisa Eldridge

The third part of Section 2 deals with the rise of our basic products - mascara, lipstick, eye shadow, blush, foundation/powder, bronzer and nail polish - along with the companies that pioneered these items. I liked how Eldridge came up with a logical arrangement of these brands into overarching categories:  couture houses, perfume companies, drugstore mainstays and makeup artists.

Face Paint by Lisa Eldridge
Could you imagine having this on your vanity?

Section 2 ends with what lies ahead for makeup in terms of technological advances, while the afterword is a brief but meaningful analysis of the significance of wearing (or not wearing) makeup nowadays.  I like the last line:  "Ultimately, nothing empowers a woman more than the right to a good education, and the freedom to choose whether to wear a red lip and smoky eye...or not." 

The whole book is sprinkled with profiles of Eldridge's "makeup muses," women who are associated with particular beauty looks that continue to inspire makeup artists today.

Face Paint by Lisa Eldridge

Face Paint by Lisa Eldridge

There are also some really cool avant-garde looks throughout...I just wish I knew whether Eldridge herself created them.  I'm assuming she did.

Face Paint by Lisa Eldridge

I loved the back cover too - doesn't this picture just make you want to dive into a pile of makeup?!

Face Paint by Lisa Eldridge

Relating a global history of makeup is a daunting task, and Eldridge did it well.  This is not your standard makeup history book as it provides an in-depth look at not just the industry and cosmetic products but also their applications throughout history.  Now, I love me some coffee table books with pretty pictures of beautiful makeup and hope to publish my own someday.  I adore books that are basically eye candy and provide scant information on the objects.  And obviously one of the main goals of the Makeup Museum is to show that beauty objects themselves can be art or cultural artifacts and that their meaning goes beyond their basic utilitarian purpose. But what I liked about Face Paint is that it got me out of my usual way of thinking about makeup mostly as art/cultural object.  That's all well and good, but it's important to also reflect on makeup's roots, i.e. why it was invented in the first place.  Face Paint was a great reminder for me to consider not just the design or cultural significance of a makeup object but how it's used, and hopefully I will keep this in mind going forward with various books and exhibitions.  This aspect of Face Paint has the added bonus of appealing to a wide market -  it's a gem for makeup collectors and non-collectors alike.  Also, if anyone is going to discuss makeup application throughout the years, it's Eldridge.  She has the same appreciation I do for package design, but also the perspective of a world-famous makeup artist who has spent countless hours actually applying it on thousands of people. 

Will you be buying Face Paint, either for yourself or for that special makeup aficionado in your life?  If you do treat yourself, be sure to check out the sources at the end.  I know I've added several books to my wishlist!


Predecessors to modern day cosmetics

I was browsing the Metropolitan Museum of Art's ancient cosmetic collection and I couldn't help but notice how similar the design of some of the pieces were to today's makeup.  Sure, the ingredients have vastly improved and technology has advanced, but the basic design for some objects remains the same.  I thought I'd share a few examples. 

1. Swivel containers

Overall I prefer makeup in more traditional compacts that open bottom to top, but swivel palettes add a luxurious touch.  Who knew they may have been rooted in ancient Egpytian cosmetic containers?  The top row in this picture contains pivoting containers from roughly 1500-300  B.C. The blue one (middle)  is in the shape of a column capital and has several compartments, while the one on the right is made of ivory and was most likely used to store powder or blush.  (You can read more about the last two here and here).  The bottom row shows what I think are some contemporary counterparts:  Dior Cristal Boreal lip gloss pendant from 2009, Le Métier de Beauté Kaleidoscope eye shadows, and Hourglass Cosmetics Illume Creme-To-Powder Bronzer Duo.

Swivel.cosmetics(top row images from metmuseum.org, bottom row images from newjuless.blogspot.com, nordstrom.com and sephora.com)

2.  Cosmetic boxes with drawers

I always thought palettes with sliding drawers were pretty cool - they're like jewelry boxes but with makeup.  These boxes in the top row of the picture below (all Egyptian) are made of wood and have compartments for storing various cosmetics.  The middle one is from the tomb of an artist and dates from 1279-1213 B.C., while the more elaborate one on the right dates from 1814–1805 B.C. and was found with a mirror and 4 ointment jars.  Today, we have Lorac's Private Affair palette, Urban Decay's Book of Shadows, and Bobbi Brown's Holiday 2011 palette, all of which feature drawers reminiscent of their ancestors. 

Cosmetic.boxes.palettes(top row images from metmuseum.org, bottom row images from sephora.com, ragingrouge.com and bobbibrowncosmetics.com)

3. Makeup bags

The Met also has an ancient leather pouch meant to store cosmetic implements.  While most makeup bags today are rarely made of leather, (companies tend to opt for nylon or plastic), some brands employ faux leather to give a more luxe feel.  Case in point:  Bobbi Brown's Chrome brush kit from 2009.

Leatherpouch.ca.1550-1295bc(images from metmuseum.org and amazon.com)

I find it so interesting that certain design principles for cosmetic tools from thousands of years ago still exist today, albeit in more technologically advanced ways. 

Which item from the Met shown here is your favorite?