Of Nails and Art

The word “art” is usually analogized with paintings, sculptures, graphic arts, or anything done on a large scale. But the beauty of art is such that it can vary from anything as gargantuan as a cave from the early men days, to something as bijou as a fingernail. Fingernails or toenails, often the most neglected parts of the human anatomy, are extensively being used these days to showcase one’s artistic flair, level of patience, eye for detail and intricacy, and how much the person is in vogue. It is believed that nail art was first introduced in Babylonia (Mesopotamia), where males coloured their fingernails with “Kohl (Kaajal)”. The males who belonged to the higher classes coloured their nails black, while those from the lower classes, wore green. It was again used in Egypt, from around 5000 B.C. to 3000 B.C., by women, to indicate social status.

Henna (Mehendi) was used for the same. For instance, the ancient Egyptian queen Nefertiti used the colour red to beautify her nails, while Cleopatra used “deep rusty shades with an undertone of gold”. The non-aristocratic women weren’t allowed to decorate their nails with the same colours. During the Ming Dynasty in ancient China, nail lacquers and varnishes are said to have been created from a mixture of beeswax, egg whites, gelatin, vegetable dyes and gum Arabic. Here again, the colour that people could wear was made directly proportional to the class, people belonged to. The Paris runways of 1976 saw the emergence of the popular French manicure, by Jeff Pink, the founder of ORLY- the cosmetic company.

Movies have also been known, for having set up nail art trends, which inspired people to go ahead and audaciously explore the world of nail art. For example, in the 1994 popular American crime film Pulp Fiction, Uma Thurman is known and remembered for her dark red nail polish called Rouge Noir by Chanel. It is after her that women started experimenting with dark colours on their nails. Black nails have become unusually mainstream of late.

In the seventies, many rock band musicians popularised the colour. Rockers such as David Bowie and Freddie Mercury are said to have resurrected the look, which wasn’t widely known and adopted, before their period. The black nail colour, then around the nineties, became a symbol of the gothic movement. It is also believed that the shock rocker and Goth King, Marilyn Manson, was one of the reasons behind the popularity of jet black nails. Many film stars of today, sport the colour to many high end events and ceremonies that has made it highly chic and trendy. The proper maintenance and care of fingernails is considered customary by contemporary women. A lady’s levels of stoicism, how much of a perfectionist she is, her attention to being systematic and tidy, how well presented and meticulous she is, is often judged and decided by the way she keeps her nails. You can tell a lot from a woman’s nails. Now you know why broken nails hurt so much!

Sindhoora Kadya

Blogger, Passionate Writer

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