How to Be a Renaissance Woman

Jill Burke


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Wellcome Collection
3 August 2023
ISBN: 9781788166669
336 pages

From the publisher

Beauty, make up, power: plunge into the intimate history of cosmetics

*As heard on BBC Radio 4 Woman's Hour*
*A BBC Radio 4 Book of the Week, October 2023*

'A total eye-opener, I loved it' Nuala McGovern

'Lively and intriguing ... You'll never look at Renaissance portraits in the same way' Maggie O'Farrell

'Terrific ... that rare thing, a serious history that is both accessible and entertaining' Literary Review

Plunge into the intimate history of cosmetics, and discover how, for centuries, women have turned to make up as a rich source of creativity, community and resistance

The Renaissance was an era obsessed with appearances. And beauty culture from the time has left traces that give us a window into an overlooked realm of history - revealing everything from sixteenth-century women's body anxieties to their sophisticated botanical and chemical knowledge.

How to be a Renaissance Woman allows us to glimpse the world of the female artists, artisans and businesswomen carving out space for themselves, as well as those who gained power and influence in the cut-throat world of the court.

In a vivid exploration of women's lives, Professor Jill Burke invites us to rediscover historical cosmetic recipes and unpack the origins of the beauty ideals that are still with us today.

'Taking a fresh, women-led perspective, Burke highlights a rich tapestry of female experience that encompasses everyone from artisans to aristocrats ... The everyday women mixing their own beauty products should rightly be considered chemists and botanists' The Times