Cleopatra Eye Make-Up

The eye of Horus
The ancient Egyptians certainly knew how to create drama in the human form. Their striking profile images of black-haired, dark-eyed  figures clad in golden garb, snake and scarab amulets and extraordinary head-pieces are so powerful, they still resonate today. Egyptian influences can still be discerned in our decorative arts, fashion and make-up.

In the 1960s, the penchant for heavy eye emphasis and pale faces and lips echoed the drama of the darkly smudged eyes of the 1920s, which in turn took much of it's inspiration from ancient Egypt.

Vivien Leigh wearing very subdued Cleopatra eyes
Meaning in Make-up
Highly stylized, Egyptian art was infused with symbolic meaning - those black rimmed eyes were not just decorative but reflected the real-life use of black eye-makeup for  magical, medicinal and spiritual purposes. The Egyptians believed that blackened eyes could protect against the harshness of the sun, ward off evil spirits and act as a salve for eye complaints.

Of course, no-one really knows exactly how the seductive Queen of the Nile, Cleopatra, wore her eye-make-up but there  have been plenty of Hollywood speculative representations, based largely on those forceful images portrayed in Egyptian artifacts. There is however, evidence that black eye liner was traditionally worn by the Egyptian Queens and indeed for many Egyptians, black eyeliner was not a frivolous vanity but rather, a social and cultural prerequisite.

Black kohl, is a very old form of make-up used in various cultures, including ancient Egypt and was known then as Galena. Formulations vary but in the main, Egyptian eye make-up seems to have utilised two main materials - udgi ( green ore of copper) and mesdemet (ore of lead).

Eye makeup also had connotations for the after-life and evidence suggests it was necessary for crossing over to the other side, as make-up palettes, grinders and applicators have been discovered among the earliest burials of the pre-dynastic period. The more elaborate the make-up utensils, the more likely the power and wealth of the person, while poor people had to content themselves with applying kohl with a simple stick:
....the kohl that is available today is basically the same thing that was familiar millennia ago. Applying kohl to your own eyes allows you to transcend the barriers of time. Even the kohl applicators and containers have not changed over the centuries. Real kohl usually comes in a little box containing a stick-like applicator and a compartment for the make up itself. An ancient Egyptian woman time-traveling to the present would surely find much to puzzle her but hand her a modern kohl container and stick and she would know exactly what to do with it. Source.
Cleopatra and kohl fan - silent film star Theda Bara
Creating Cleopatra Eyes
Of course, to create classic Cleopatra eyes (at least the Hollywood notion), you need to forget subtlety. Go heavy on the eyeliner and eye-shadow and light on foundation, rouge and lip colour...otherwise you may end up totally over-saturated. The idea is to draw attention to the eyes and not distract with face make-up. However, whichever way you slice it, Cleopatra eyes aren't for the faint-hearted as the look is obvious and attention-getting and best seen at night that in daylight. Unless you're going to a costume party, in which case, anything goes. It can be fun to experiment with swirls and flicks for extra effect.

Elizabeth Taylor's blockbuster Cleopatra eyes
Make sure you pencil in your eyebrows with a dark hue or they wont match the eyes and the effect will be lost. The whole upper lid, from lash line to brow should be shaded with a darkish hue - blue, mauve or dark green. With a steady hand, black eyeliner needs to be applied from the inner corner and along the lash line, forming an upward arch and thickening at the ends to meet up with the brow line at the corners.  Drama +.

Cleopatra Hair
1960s Makeup
Snake Bracelets
Scarab Jewelry