Inspired by Nature: The Traditional Cosmetics of Korea at the Korean Cultural Centre

By Culture24 Reporter | 15 March 2013

Exhibition preview: Inspired by Nature – The Traditional Cosmetics of Korea, Korean Cultural Centre, London, until April 6 2013

An image of a large thin grey and red instrument used historically to apply make-up
Ornamental Hairpin (Joseon)© Coreana Cosmetics Museum
The largest collection of artefacts related to Korean cosmetic and beauty history spans as far back as 57 BC, but the biggest revelation might be that ladies from Goryeo between the tenth and late 14th centuries would favour willow-shaped eyebrows and light make-up using powder without rouge or blusher.

The Joseon Dynasty, which subsequently ruled for more than 500 years, was dominated by the restrained ethos of Confucianism, preferring expression through hair and apparel accessories.

Co-curated by Seoul’s Coreana Cosmetics Museum, this shining display goes a long way to revealing centuries of societal change. Goryeo specialised in tiny cases within containers, whereas the craftspeople of the later era manufactured the white and blue porcelain designs which were beloved of new brides.

The organic nature of some of the concoctions seems to emanate ancient wisdom: modest amounts of raw materials had to be used in the pre-preservative age, with oils commonly taken from apricot seeds and peaches and coloured by stone, kudzu and red clay or the white powder of ground rice and millet.

These ancient secrets are being revealed in a series of public, nature-inspired cosmetic and perfume-making workshops.

More pictures:

A photo of an ornate box in yellow and black with illustrations from the orient on it
Black-lancquered Toilet Case inlaid with Mother-of-Pearl (late Joseon, end of 19th - early 20th century)© Coreana Cosmetics Museum
A photo of a circular make-up box with a green and white floral design around its edge
Inlaid Celadon Cosmetics Case, Goryeo (early 14th century)© Coreana Cosmetics Museum
A photo of an ornate small black and white make-up box with a blue flower in the centre
Silver Powder Case with Plum Blossom Design from Korean Empire (Joseon, late 19th century)© Coreana Cosmetics Museum
An image of a small round make-up instrument with a green and white pattern on it
Inlaid Celadon Cosmetic oil Bottle (Goryeo)© Coreana Cosmetics Museum
A photo of a small circular make-up holder with a lid parting from the base
Earthware powder case, Baekje (5th-6th century)© Coreana Cosmetics Museum
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