Thursday, April 22, 2010

"Deadly Coral"

I love the Wallace Collection. I bought a book for a pound there the other week, really thick and it's a catalogue of all of it's miniatures.

Over Easter I researched some of the women in the miniatures, purely out of my own sad curiousity.

Some of the lives these women had were so incredible, incredibly amazing and for some, incredibly tragic.

One that stuck out for me was The Countess of Coventry Maria Gunning. From a poor family, her and her sister set out to be actresses. In October 1748 the beautiful sister's were invited to a ball at Dublin Castle. With no suitable attire they borrowed some frocks off a theatre, the costumes for Lady Macbeth and Juliet. This party proved important, Maria's sister got them a pension. They then became celebrities and social beauties.

Maria married the 6th Earl of Coventry eventually, becoming the Countess. For the honeymoon the couple travelled around Europe, including Paris. On the trip her new husband refused to let her wear heavy rouge make-up, which was very much in vogue in the capital at that time, he even tried to rub it off with a hankie when she wore it to dinner one night.

When they returned, Maria apparently continued to wear vast amounts of make-up heavily, because it was stylish. She died aged 27, of led poisoning from the cosmetics, earning her the title of "Victim of cosmetics" among society circles.

She's going to be the centre piece of my exhibition with coral red poured onto her. Titled "Deadly Coral" I'm hoping it will tie the idea of poison mentally and physically with cosmetics.

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