BOOK THE THIRD
7. Chapter VII
On the table, before which she sat, was a small and circular mirror of the
most polished steel: round which, in precise order, were ranged the
cosmetics and the unguents--the perfumes and the paints--the jewels and
combs--the ribands and the gold pins, which were destined to add to the
natural attractions of beauty the assistance of art and the capricious
allurements of fashion. Through the dimness of the room glowed brightly the
vivid and various colourings of the wall, in all the dazzling frescoes of
Pompeian taste. Before the dressing-table, and under the feet of Julia, was
spread a carpet, woven from the looms of the East. Near at hand, on another
table, was a silver basin and ewer; an extinguished lamp, of most exquisite
workmanship, in which the artist had represented a Cupid reposing under the
spreading branches of a myrtle-tree; and a small roll of papyrus, containing
the softest elegies of Tibullus. Before the door, which communicated with
the cubiculum, hung a curtain richly broidered with gold flowers. Such was
the dressing-room of a beauty eighteen centuries ago.
The fair Julia leaned indolently back on her seat, while the ornatrix (i.e.
hairdresser) slowly piled, one above the other, a mass of small curls,
dexterously weaving the false with the true, and carrying the whole fabric
to a height that seemed to place the head rather at the centre than the
summit of the human form.
Her tunic, of a deep amber, which well set off her dark hair and somewhat
embrowned complexion, swept in ample folds to her feet, which were cased in
slippers, fastened round the slender ankle by white thongs; while a
profusion of pearls were embroidered in the slipper itself, which was of
purple, and turned slightly upward, as do the Turkish slippers at this day.
An old slave, skilled by long experience in all the arcana of the toilet,
stood beside the hairdresser, with the broad and studded girdle of her
mistress over her arm, and giving, from time to time (mingled with judicious
flattery to the lady herself), instructions to the mason of the ascending
'Put that pin rather more to the right--lower--stupid one! Do you not
observe how even those beautiful eyebrows are?--One would think you were
dressing Corinna, whose face is all of one side. Now put in the
flowers--what, fool!--not that dull pink--you are not suiting colors to the
dim cheek of Chloris: it must be the brightest flowers that can alone suit
the cheek of the young Julia.'