Man Ray’s Tears was photographed c. 1930-1932 using a fashion mannequin as his model instead of a real woman.
…that’s a mannequin? Are you sure?
This mannequin is so realistic that I’m not convinced that it wasn’t a real live model. With that in mind, let’s take a closer look at each feature and investigate the contemporary tech and cosmetics that influenced the final product.
Her eyebrows have been either soaped down or covered with greasepaint (an early foundation), and redrawn with an eyebrow pencil. The left eyebrow is thicker than the right eyebrow as if the pencil was dragged more heavily over the left eyebrow and more delicately (with the point of the pencil, not its side) over the right eyebrow. Being right-handed, this is a mistake I often make. The left eyebrow’s line starts with a square, not a fine line, as if it was drawn with a similarly angled, unsharpened pencil. (Note: eyebrows should be drawn as sisters, not twins. Too much symmetry looks bad.)
Also, notice that eyebrow hair extends toward the middle of the face.
Starting with our largest organ, let’s grab a mirror and compare ourselves to Tears.
Look at the skin around the nose and near the corner of the eyes. While larger pores can’t be seen on the nose or the cheek, you can see that the skin follows the same growth directions as on your own face. Her left temple curves upward into a soft brow ridge.
The model/mannequin’s eyes are watering more in the right eye closer to the main light source, possibly one of the internally frosted round bulbs first produced in 1925 judging by the round reflection in her eyes. Her small pupils also indicate a close light. Note the realistic tear ducts as well as the veins in the eye itself.
As she cries, what is she looking at? Her eyes are looking toward the top left-hand corner of the photograph’s outer frame. She’s not looking at anything outside of the frame, she’s looking at the frame itself.
Standard for the time, the eyeshadow is a single tone of henna.
Early mascara effects were achieved by beading hot wax on to the lashes, and either using commercial cake mascara or using a mix of Vaseline with charcoal. The lashes are stuck together at the base of the eyes and separated nearer to their tips. Her lower water line is hidden, but her upper water line is visible. Yours should be the same light color, normally not visible unless you widen your eyes and tip your head back.
But her lashes are separated so perfectly! How is this achieved? Even now it’s a difficult trick. It’s rumored that Audrey Hepburn achieved her own separated lashes by using a thin needle to painstakingly get the clumps out.
What about the tears?
The tears are described as round glass beads by the Getty Museum but they look more like rhinestones whose bottoms have not been coated with the usual metallic reflective substance (the model/mannequin’s skin tone is not interrupted). That is, they are spherical except for their flattened bottoms, are of uniform size and without a hole (what looks like its holes are likely an effect of the overhead light). Contemporary greasepaint foundation would’ve kept those tears steady while Man Ray worked as the model laid down under the bright light.
Considering that this look includes slightly uneven eyebrows and requires a ten minute needle-near-the-eyes terror mascara session, I believe that this model applied her own makeup before leaning back to have beads applied. Her eyes are wet, but her face has not broken into sweat. It’s likely that she would not have been under the hot light for long before the photo was taken. As well, fixing your eyes at such an extreme angle is painful and hard to maintain.
I can’t believe that this was just a posed mannequin. Whoever posed deserves some recognition for her contribution since she likely applied her own cosmetics and likely strained her neck and eyes again and again for a single masterpiece. But this time, there were two masters.
Man Ray’s Tears is currently off-view and held by the Getty Museum in Los Angeles, California.