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THE VIOLENT HISTORY OF BLUSH The Woman Who Indirectly Poisoned Over 600 Men Charles Darwin called blushing “the most peculiar and most human of all expressions.” For hundreds of years, makeup has helped women recreate this rosy look with blush and rouge. But did you know the ritual of pinking one’s cheeks has an intriguing and violent history? During the Middle Ages in Europe, a ghostly white pallor was associated with wealth. The societal expectation to uphold this appearance was so deep-rooted that overlords and ladies even underwent bloodletting procedures to maintain their plaster skin tone. Makeup trends changed in the following centuries, when rosy cheeks were associated with fertility and arousal, resulting in the creation of multiple beauty products designed to give cheeks a youthful glow. An Italian countrywoman named Giulia Tofana decided to take advantage of this trend by selling a poisonous “complexion aid.” Tofana had spent
Tofana’s death was almost as violent as her 20-year murder streak. One of her customers got cold feet after dropping some of the poison in her husband’s soup, so she told the papal authorities that Tofana was the one who had sold her the concoction. Tofana, along with her daughter and three employees, were tortured until they confessed. Many contemporary women may consider blush an outdated beauty product, but it was once so popular that people killed to have it.
much of her life learning the tricks of alchemy from her mother, who was executed after being accused of poisoning her husband. Tofana spent her adult years creating a poisonous makeup she dubbed “Aqua Tofana.” This product was rumored to kill in just four drops, containing just enough arsenic to do the job without leaving a trace. Tofana disguised the poison as liquid blush and traveled around southern Italy, where she peddled her product to women whose families had arranged their marriage to malicious men. Her main sales pitch was to offer these women an “early Italian divorce,” and it worked. Reports indicate that Tofana was behind the murder of over 600 men.
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