Cochineal, Cinnabar


The miracle that happens on your face. The incredible colourless blusher that doesn’t blush until you put it on. It happens right before your eyes. In just a few seconds it begins to blush, slowly blending with the colour of your skin to become the perfect, natural, individual colour for you to blush. Nature’s Blush knows what colour you should blush just like nature itself. Your face by Coty.1


132 years after her execution, Mozart, on his deathbed, attempted to blame Giulia for his own premature passing. Mozart you know but you might not have heard of Giulia. Needless to say Giulia never heard of nor met Mozart.2


On the occasion of her mother’s execution, the 13 years old Giulia took the first name of her mother as her last name. This was common practice in Italy at the time and thus Giulias’ new full name became Giulia Tofana. Besides the name Giulia took after Tofana in various ways. As did Giulias’ daughter Girolama, some years later. These three generations of women allegedly all shared a stunning beauty, tragically all lost their husbands, privately all practiced as apothecaries and publicly all devoted their lives to the making and selling of cosmetics for which they all attracted a very specific group of clientele, namely wives seeking widowhood.


Although Giulia herself is credited with having invented the infamous blush that bore her name, some sources indicate it may have been invented by her mother who passed the recipe on to her daughter, who passed the recipe on to her daughter.


Mirror mirror on the wall, I am my mother after all.


Prisoner 02879-509 stares at her cellmate A-17 in the Metropolitan Detention Centre in Brooklyn, New York. Exactly seven months ago 02879-509 reportedly had a jailhouse makeover as she prepared to stand trial. Given the detention centre in question, her makeover was likely done by herself. The Bureau of Prisons sells hair dye in the commissary to inmates for $9.50. In her first-ever jailhouse interview three weeks prior to her trial 02879-509 tells us how the guards were so impressed by how straight she managed to cut her hair with nail clippers they rewarded her with paper scissors, suggesting she open a salon.


02879-509 appeared much more glamorous in court having showered, dyed her greying roots black and styled her straggly hair into a shoulder-length bob cut. She also ditched her prison issued blue top and pants for street clothes - a black turtleneck and grey slacks.


Taking the bait you question whether you are clicking for the cut versus the crime. But then questions arise whether the guards rewarded her with an A4 paper cut out in the shape of scissors or actual scissors made to cut paper.


In the interview 02879-509 spoke about rotten food and friendly rat:


"I don't even have shoes which fit properly and my apples have maggots in it. I go to the loo with an open sewer drain and a friendly rat regularly visits. I told the guards, but nothing was done until the rat popped out and charged a guard, who screamed in terror."


At once, one of the ugly sisters
The one whose face was blotched with blisters
Sneaked up and grabbed the dainty shoe
And quickly flushed it down the loo.3


First time you use blush: Iceland. You’re selling toilet paper, it’s the early aughts and you don’t find it embarrassing. You’re walking door to door, unsuccessfully convincing your neighbours to buy in bulk. Despite the harsh winter wind, your face doesn’t flush. When you come home without having made a single sale your sister produces some pink powder and it is notable that only when returning to your streets all rosy cheeked do you rid yourself of the product and are confidently in the know of what will soak in your communal sewer system for the coming months.


First time anyone uses blush: Ancient Egypt. A man stirs natural pigment with fat for that red shimmer and applies on his cheeks. 2000 years later, in Ancient Rome a man mixes lead with a bright red mineral called cinnabar and applies to his cheeks. Much later that mixture was found to cause cancer, dementia, and death.


Enamoured of his own feminine beauty and blush, frustrated by his inability to clasp his own reflection the youth (Narcissus) beats his bare breasts, the blows colour his skin with rosy glow of pain that ironically mirrors the rubor on his cheeks and looks none other than apples do.4


Now blush has bounce Maybelline.5


Still to this day it remains a mystery why evolution should favour a signal that is effectively an admission of guilt. Thus your inability to blush gradually became an alibi of sorts. You saw how when no shame followed your blame, a seed of doubt was planted in each person who attempted confrontation. How you or whoever makes use of your abilities, nurtures that seed is another story. Blushing is less than flushing but blushing, more than flushing, has proven difficult to explain. Much to your advantage of course. And yet, even though a fantasy can’t blush, couldn’t it still flush?


Lucky for me I don’t blush easily.
Because I am about to leak some shit
and I prefer you not being able
to read how I might feel about it
at any given moment.


Later: Middle Ages. A white upper class European woman shutters herself away and undergoes bloodletting procedures to achieve that perfectly ghoulish glow which she highlights with a dab or two of cheek tint made from strawberries and water.


One hundred years later: The then queen of England, Elisabeth the first, prompts a new trend with corpses of crushed insects dabbed on her cheeks. Cochineal rouge.


Four hundred years later: Her namesake, Elizabeth Taylor says "When a woman stops blushing, she has lost the most powerful weapon of charm."


There’s a blush for want, and a blush for shan’t,
And a blush for having done it;
There’s a blush for thought, and a blush for nought,
And a blush for just begun it.6


Giulia was a young widow when she first began peddling her product and it is possible that she tested and perfected the mixture of the lead and belladonna blush on her own husband. A mixture reminiscent of the Ancient Romans’ rouge.


Understandably, Giulia was quite selective in whom she sold the blush to and accepted as clients only those who had been vouched for by previous satisfied customers. These former clients, risked almost as much as herself if their prior business came to light. Hence the three generations of women went undetected for decades.


Until one day, one of her clients seasoned her husbands’ soup with the blush but instantly regretted it. When stopping him from slurping the soup, his suspicions aroused. Forcefully he took the truth out of her and dragged her off to be offed.


Days pass but eventually Giulia was handed over to the authorities who tortured her until she confessed to selling poison which killed over 600 husbands between 1633 and 1651, which is the year I met Giulia. So I can tell you with certainty that given the level of torture she met, to speak of confessions is not the most accurate way to put it. In July of 1659, when convinced they had squeezed enough lies out of her Giulia was executed.


A totally different breed of blush, Almay.7


In exactly seven days 02879-509 will start serving her sentence which she will finish once she is one hundred and one years old.


In her first-ever jailhouse interview three weeks prior to her trail 02879-509 spoke about cutting her own hair and the creation of A-17:


"Strange things happen. The toilet flushes, the shower turns on when no one is nearby. When it happens, it alarms the guards so I created a 'cellmate' called A-17 so when something strange happens I blame it on A-17."




1 1978 Cotys advertisement for Nature’s Blush.

2 On his deathbed in 1791 Mozart claimed that he’d been poisoned by Aqua Tofana.

3 A collection of six traditional fairy tales re-written as comedic poems by Roald Dahl, and first published in 1982.

4 Shakespeare’s mythological feuilletage: A methodological induction by Yves Peyré.

5 Maybelline advertisement for Bouncy Blush 2011.

6 O Blush Not So! by John Keats in 1795, four years after Mozart’s death.

7 Almay advertisement for Whipcream Blush, 1975.