Pre-Raphaelite Makeup Muse: Rossetti’s Lady Lilith

Since this painting has always intrigued me, I wanted to recreate it with a makeup look, and then dump Adam for an archangel.
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Publish date:
August 29, 2013
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blushes, nars, lipsticks, mac, Armani, How-To, foundations, concealers, muses, makeup brushes, art, buxom

Dante Gabriel Rossetti was a founder of the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood, a group of English artists and poets who rejected Mannerism as it descended from classical painters like Raphael and Michelangelo. Basically, they thought the Sistine Chapel was lame.

They wanted to find a way to take all the mannerist structure out of contemporary painting and bring back the late medieval Quattrocentro style, derived from 14th century Europe. Think Botticelli. They loved Romantic poetry, like John Keats, and wanted to meld the vibes of medieval painting and romantic poetry together, and tied it up with some fancy philosophy about freedom of expression and the like.

These guys are my jam.

Rossetti is best known for his jewel-toned, sensuous and serious portraits of beautiful women with unique features, most of whom he had affairs with. I’ve always been drawn to Pre-Raphaelite painting, but I think Rossetti’s women are what really attracted me, especially the paintings using model Alexa Wilding. Her face is incredibly timeless, and Rossetti painted her with obvious devotion, bringing out her sharp, almost masculine characteristics and blatantly emphasizing her personal strength.

In no painting of his is this more adamant than in Lady Lilith, which was originally painted with the face of another regular subject, Fanny Cornforth. However, the guy who commissioned it asked him to redo it with Alexa, which was a good call. Alexa’s strong features easily express the mythical nature of Lilith, a quasi-demon and Adam’s wife before Eve. Lilith wouldn’t be subservient to Adam, so she ran off and got it on with the archangel Samael, and rejected Eden. The original feminist! (Or the original vampire if you're a True Blood fan--holler!)

Since this painting has always had a strong subliminal influence for me, I wanted to recreate it.

Lilith’s appearance in the painting is pretty much a ready-made makeup look: strong brow, porcelain skin, defined socket, and luscious lips. The color on her lips is so fascinating: almost red, kind of berry, a little orange. Like a beautiful chameleon lip. Sadly this is pretty hard to find in the physical, non-magical world. I think I got pretty close though!

To get the most luminous, even complexion I could, I applied Giorgio Armani Luminous Silk Foundation all over with a MAC 190 brush, then buffed it in with a MAC 130. This helps push the foundation down into your skin, rather than having it sit on top, and gives that amazing airbrush effect. People can’t say enough about this foundation. Long story short, it is weightless and freakishly effective.

I also used the Armani Maestro concealer, which has the same magical brightening, invisible properties. It’s the invisibility cloak of concealer. I just dabbed it under my eyes and over my acne scars, and buffed again with the 130. I didn’t want to go overboard with blush, so I lightly blended NARS Amour in the hollows of my cheeks for that mystical demon vibe.

For the brows, I both filled them in with matte powder and an angled brush, and defined them with a pencil in a slightly darker shade.

The eyes are the fun part, though, and I have really been honing my blending talents. I only used the Urban Decay Naked 2 palette, which is endlessly versatile with its twelve shades in various matte, shimmer and sparkle shadows. It’s my favorite because it goes from natural and neutral to full diva within one product.

I started out with a base of Foxy all over my eyelid. Then I used a MAC 239 shading brush to apply Half Baked from lash line to crease, blending up and out just a little without reloading product. I find a gentle patting motion all over the eyelid, with frequent reloading of shadow, to be an efficient way to get a good intense wash of color all over. In my experience, dragging eyeshadow across the lid is never good.

Now for the crease! Using the same brush, I dipped the top of the bristles straight down into the Snakebite shade. I applied this color right into the crease, until I had a fairly even, light line, and then switched to the MAC 217 blending brush. This is the best blending brush, as the bristles are soft enough to distribute evenly, but still firm enough to push and diffuse your accent color.

I used gentle circular motions to bring the crease color up and out to the outer corner of my eye, slightly flicking out and back at the corner. This is what creates that cool, super-subtle little flick.

Using tiny amounts of Snakebite at a time, repeat this process until you have a defined crease that slowly diffuses out. It is so fun once you get the hang of it!

To finish, I just put a little Blackout shadow along my lash line with a cheap smudge brush.

For the lips, I wanted to stay fairly natural by not using liner (in retrospect I probably should have since it looks a little wonky in the close-up, but whatever). I searched high and low (aka all over Sephora) for the perfect shade. And I think I got pretty close! Buxom Full Bodied Lipstick in Provocateur has that mysterious brick red color with a hint of berry.

For whatever reason, the orangey tones don’t show up as much on me, but I really love the creamy, medium-shine formula. It does fade somewhat quickly compared to an intense pigment like MAC Ruby Woo, but it fades very nicely into a stain that still holds quite a bit of color. All in all, I love the color, and I think it would look great on a ton of different skin tones.

Obviously, this ravishing temptress look would be great for a date. Not just any date, but a steal-his-soul, make-him-forget-who-his-mom-is level seduction. Just find a sun-dappled garden to sit in, admiring your own beauty, until some unsuspecting creeper peeks over your garden fence. The rest will be history, until you run off with an archangel/biker guy/vampire-fairy-hybrid.