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The Unusual Russian Historical past of Beet Make-Up

The Unusual Russian Historical past of Beet Make-Up

2023-12-11 10:40:38

Paint your cheeks with beet juice? Each Soviet youngster laughed at ugly Marfushka with enormous beet-red circles on her cheeks within the 1964 film “Morozko.” Though the fairy story was a lie, there was an oz. of reality within the picture. 5 hundred years in the past the faces of Russian girls have been plastered with make-up so thick that in the present day’s fashionistas wouldn’t imagine it.

“Ladies painted their cheeks, lips, chin and eyebrows so thickly that they seemed revolting,” wrote the well-known ethnographer Alexander Tereshchenko (1806-1865) about Russian life earlier than the seventeenth century. “The fairer intercourse cherished to make use of rouge, and if a husband wouldn’t purchase his spouse white face paint, it meant that he didn’t love her.”

However the place did fashion this come from? There’s nothing to point that these sorts of cosmetics have been utilized in historical Russia. It have to be that pernicious overseas affect that patriots in the present day are continuously occurring about. However all that was “good and holy” in Russia was not destroyed by the horrible French or Poles. This sort of closely made-up face is a legacy of the Mongols, who didn’t invent it however adopted it from China and the East. Given Russia’s present “flip to the East,” quickly this customary of feminine magnificence might be acknowledged as deeply patriotic and really genuine.

					Two beet halves make the best rouge. 					 					A still from the fairy tale movie "Morozko" (USSR, 1964).

Two beet halves make one of the best rouge.
A nonetheless from the fairy story film “Morozko” (USSR, 1964).

After all, girls have coloured their lips and cheeks for hundreds of years. Many centuries in the past the Egyptians used purple ochre — a pure combination of iron oxides and clay. They typically coloured their nails and hair with henna. In Mesopotamia they used asafetida, a gum extracted from the ferula plant. Chinese language girls’s make-up required completely white pores and skin. This customary of magnificence most likely got here to Russia through the Mongols.

For some cause Russian girls, who have been raised in austerity and introduced as much as be reserved, discovered an outlet for his or her creativity and sense of magnificence in these cosmetics. They whitened their pores and skin, painted their cheeks and blackened their eyebrows. Wealthy girls often put a lead-based white paint on their faces. In villages girls of lesser means — Nastenka and Marfushka — made do with easy wheat flour, stearin candles and different improvised supplies.

					This "caricature" is actually close to reality.					 					A still from the fairy-tale movie "Morozko" (USSR, 1964).

This “caricature” is definitely near actuality.
A nonetheless from the fairy-tale film “Morozko” (USSR, 1964).

First girls rubbed their faces with spongilla (a type of freshwater sponge), dried roots, recent berries of lily of the valley, or tincture of purple sandalwood. For rouge poor girls used evaporated beet juice. They might apply the rouge over all the cheek, or generally painted it on within the form of circles, stripes or rhombuses.

They might draw on eyebrows with antimony or extraordinary coal from the range. The strategy of make-up itself was peculiar. Whitewash coated the face in a thick layer in order that it resembled a masks. Eyebrows have been drawn on like sable tails, that’s, very extensive and lengthy. Service provider wives within the early nineteenth century painted their tooth black, which was thought-about an excellent of magnificence.

					The black teeth are a sign of beauty.					 					A still from the fairy-tale movie "Morozko" (USSR, 1964).

The black tooth are an indication of magnificence.
A nonetheless from the fairy-tale film “Morozko” (USSR, 1964).

Contemporaries famous {that a} wealthy girl used half a pood (8 kg) of rouge, whitewash and different cosmetics yearly. By the way in which, male guests typically placed on rouge after they have been to satisfy with a girl, “as a result of this proved his respect for her,” writes historian Alexander Tereshchenko. And in response to Antonio Possevino, a papal legate who visited Moscow in 1580, wealthy and noble girls have been within the behavior of carrying three attire, one on prime of the opposite. “A lady carrying just one gown was unseemly and dishonorable.”

In Russian excessive society, the custom of placing on such ample cosmetics progressively went out of fashion through the reign of Peter the Nice. Frenchman Foy de la Neuville in his “Notes on Moscovia” (Relation curieuse et nouvelle de Moscovie, 1698) recalled that Anna Stepanovna, the spouse of Peter the Nice’s good friend Andrei Matveyev, is “the one girl on this nation who doesn’t use whitewash and rouge, so she is sort of good trying.”

					Portrait of Andrei Matveyev (atelier Rigo-y-Rossa) and his wives. Unfortunately, there is no extant portrait of his first wife Anna					 					Wikicommons

Portrait of Andrei Matveyev (atelier Rigo-y-Rossa) and his wives. Sadly, there isn’t a extant portrait of his first spouse Anna

It’s value including right here that this household was very enlightened and secular. Even after the demise of his first spouse Anna, Matveyev grew to become ambassador to Holland and carried out diplomatic assignments for Peter the Nice in England and France. He was rightfully thought-about a vivid consultant of the “Westerners” among the many Russian the Aristocracy.

And as Russia took on a extra European mien, Russian girls additionally progressively moved away from the Japanese aesthetic and moved in the direction of in the present day’s beliefs of magnificence.

However beet juice was nonetheless used as a rouge for a very long time.

Brightly coloured beets entice consideration on the desk, too, and they’re significantly scrumptious when their sweetness is mixed with a pointy taste, as on this recipe for an appetizer. 

Herring with pickled beets and bitter cream-horseradish sauce

Substances (for 10 servings)

  • 500 g (beneficiant 1 lb) medium-sized beets
  • 1 purple onion
  • 250 ml (1 cup) water for marinade
  • 100 ml (scant ½ c) 6% vinegar
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 100 g (1/2 c) sugar
  • 50 ml (3 Tbsp and 1 tsp) vegetable oil
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 8-10 black peppercorns
  • 3-5 allspice berries
  • 1-2 cloves


Prepare dinner the beets

Methodology #1: Boiling

See Also

  • Put the beets in a pot and canopy fully with water.
  • Carry to a boil, scale back warmth and simmer for 40 min. Cool.

Methodology #2: Baking

  • Preheat the oven to 180°C / 355°F
  • Wrap the beets in foil.
  • Put the beets on a baking tray and place within the oven for 45-50 minutes (till prepared). You’ll be able to examine the cooking by pricking with a fork or knife; the beets needs to be delicate. Cool.


  • Peel onion, minimize into skinny rings.
  • Combine water, vinegar, sugar, salt, vegetable oil.
  • Add bay leaves and each sorts of pepper.
  • Warmth over medium warmth, stirring, till salt and sugar dissolve. Cool barely.
  • Peel the cool beets and minimize into quarters after which skinny slices. Put them in a glass jar.
  • Add chopped onions and canopy with the marinade.
  • Depart to marinate for 1 day.

For the appetizer, you should buy a ready-made cleaned fillet of evenly salted herring. Or you possibly can select a complete herring and clear the fish your self.



  • 200 g (3/4 c) 20% fats bitter cream
  • 2 Tbsp store-bought grated horseradish
  • salt and floor black pepper to style
  • 2 slices of pickled beets


  • Mix the bitter cream, horseradish and beets with a blender. Add salt and floor black pepper to style.

Plate the appetizer


  • 200 g (7 oz) pickled beet
  • 1 evenly salted herring
  • 1 purple or yellow onion
  • sauce


  • Lower herring into small slices.
  • Peel the onion, minimize into rings.
  • Place beets, herring and onions on a dish. Pour the sauce excessive of the dish or serve alongside.

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