WHAT IS THIS THING? Mystery museum object #5

Picture of a mystery museum object Max Factror beautyWHAT IS THIS THING? Inspired by a mystery object tweeted by one of my favorite websites, Collectors Weekly, I’ve decided to make a little game out of some of my own ridiculously interesting MYSTERY MUSEUM OBJECTS. Try to guess what this strange thing is before scrolling down for the answer!

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Did you figure it out yet?

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A little farther…

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THE ANSWER:

This tortuous looking device is a beauty calibrator or “micrometer”, made in 1932 by makeup mogul Max Factor, the father of the modern cosmetics industry. A bizarre union of beauty and phrenology, this one-of-a-kind device was meant to be used as a tool for Hollywood make up artists, who could measure a starlet’s face against “perfect” facial proportions and use heavy make up to correct her facial shape flaws. Made of flexible metal strips, it is held against the head using set screws and will supposedly reveal flaws naked to the human eye that could be exaggerated on the movie screen. (Here are some slightly unsettling images of it in use!)

One of my favorite artists, Zoe Leonard, also featured this device in one of her photographs from the early 1990s, as  part of a larger project that explored presentations of the female body in museum spaces.

Did you figure out what this object was before you read the answer? If not, leave your guesses in the comments! For more, see Mystery Museum Object #1, Mystery Museum Object #2, Mystery Museum Object #3 and Mystery Museum Object #4.

// Image via LA Observed, but object originally from the collection of the now defunct Max Factor Museum of Beauty. Today, it is in the collection of the Hollywood Museum, although it has been put up for auction as recently as 2010.

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24 thoughts on “WHAT IS THIS THING? Mystery museum object #5

  1. I guessed that it was a measuring instrument, but I had guessed it was for determining criminality. Wasn’t there a French criminologist (early 1800s) who said that one’s criminal leanings could be measured by the distance between the eyes?

  2. I have one of those in my garage. I’ve been using it to pop baby’s balloons and to destroy the neighbor kid’s footballs, basketballs and volleyballs whenever they land in my yard. Killed a skunk with it once.

  3. I thought is was a head shaper, you know, to adjust imperfections and create the ‘perfect’ shape. Ridiculously interesting!

    • even more appalling, this cosmetician was trying to standardize beauty, put it in a bottle, turn something natural into a ‘product’ they could sell. Just a bad as the nazis and probably the same people with different passports.

  4. I thought it was something to do with reading brain waves. There are rather more contact points in the cranial area than on the face. I would have thought a beauty measure would have focused more on the face,

  5. I had many guesses–none of them good. I thought maybe the woman was like the character in “Clockwork Orange”–forced to listen to Beethoven while watching violent scenes. My final guess was that the wearer would learn, by wearing the device, to balance her head in a proper manner.

  6. The Nazis also used something similar to determine the “the perfect Aryan features” by which they judged their superior race. The closer a woman was to the perfect features, the more she was encouraged to reproduce to further “purify the race”.

    I’ve forgotten which of the 100’s of books I’ve read on the Eastern Front of WWII that I read that, but so intense were the Nazis with “keeping the race pure” that this is just one of many, many, many tests/trials they put women (and some men) through in order to determine their fitness for procreating.

  7. Pingback: WHAT IS THIS THING? Mystery museum object #1 | The Museum of Ridiculously Interesting Things

  8. Pingback: WHAT IS THIS THING? Mystery museum object #2 | The Museum of Ridiculously Interesting Things

  9. Pingback: WHAT IS THIS THING? Mystery museum object #3 | The Museum of Ridiculously Interesting Things

  10. Pingback: WHAT IS THIS THING? Mystery museum object #4 | The Museum of Ridiculously Interesting Things

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