When Deleuze praised the “exquisite lightness” of freckles


Why this new obsession with these small ocher, brown or orange spots? Philosopher Gilles Deleuze succumbed to the charm of these freckles (the learned name for freckles). In a text written less than 20 years ago, Description of the Woman. For a gendered philosophy of others (1944), Deleuze’s thoughts show a surprising contemporaneity. In the same text, he highlights the essence of the beauty of these spots and identifies a very particular make-up, that holes.

Curse or asset?

Between fascination and repulsion, freckles have not always been unanimous. For centuries, they were synonymous with a curse. At a time when leprosy was ravaging skin diseases were feared. In the Middle Ages, freckles were even equated with the mark of the Devil, betraying witchcraft and evoking the flames of hell.

Absent at birth, these ocher spots only appear under the effect of the sun. This characteristic surely aggravated their case: perceived as a loss of purity, the ephelides signified a pact with evil. Not so long ago, freckles were still decried, leading to the development of many techniques, more or less radical, to try to get rid of them – from cream to laser. But what happened to be able to read today: “How to highlight freckles? », « 8 techniques to make freckles », “I got my freckles tattooed”.

Freckles vs. moles

Gilles Deleuze may have the answer. In Description of the Woman. For a gendered philosophy of othershe emphasizes the beauty of the ephelides by quoting the French poet Jules Romans :

Don’t think of them as a flaw. They matched her complexion. His skin seemed to be of a rarer essence. As it happens for precious woods. Since I had more than once, without realizing it, to look for these spots on beautiful faces and to be a little disappointed in their absence. »

For Deleuze, the presence of these small pigmented spots embellishes the face. Their presence suggests the absence of artifice; unparalleled purity. Unlike moles, they are discreet.

“We must be wary of the mole, which has thickness, can be identified, is not noumenal [ayant rapport aux choses en soi, échappant au monde sensible]. And then the mole is alone, it doesn’t go in a group, it’s markedly black. In short, it prepares and provokes an ironic reversal; instead of the face, the whole face is organized around a black grain. A disastrous effect, which freckles, given their multiplicity, their exquisite lightness and their perfection, are incapable of creating. »

By their multitude and their subtlety, the ephelides enliven the skin like a caress.

“The freckles evoke a mysterious and perfect momentum, a flexible trajectory from which slingshot?”

Gilles Deleuze

The unpredictability of the stain

The word “stain” is usually associated with defilement, soiling. He reports an accident, a loss of control leaving a trace for proof. Freckles suggest, by their name and appearance, this unpredictability: “The freckles evoke a mysterious and perfect momentum, a flexible trajectory from which slingshot? » asks Deleuze. Like an immaculate canvas, the face welcomes these splashes.

By focusing on this part of the body that is a face, they thus come to value features of faciality which finally evade the organization of the face. Freckles that spin on the horizon, hair blown by the wind. »

Impossible, therefore, to anticipate their form or their location before their appearance.

Moreover, certain make-up techniques, which attempt to reproduce these freckles, reflect this unpredictability: dip a toothbrush in dark brown pigment and splatter on the cheekbones, you can recreate fake freckles. This method allows you to create random clouds “for the most natural result possible”. This is how the indeterminate becomes a sign of naturalness and playfulness. Ephelides are inherently juvenile.

“We see freckles and we cannot touch them, the outlines are merely visual and the freckles themselves are out of reach”

Gilles Deleuze

An elusive sign

Apparent in summer, they disappear in winter. Ephelides are often ephemeral: only the rays of the sun dictate their arrival. Their flat surface makes them all the more volatile, they are impalpable.

You can pass your hand in vain, they do not catch, do not protrude, simple blooming on the surface, proliferation without thickness, annoying charm: you see freckles and you cannot touch them, the contours are simply visual and the stains themselves are out of reach: impossible to take them between two fingers, to encircle them with the finger, to make them protrude. »

It is impossible to discern them by touch. The lack of volume taunts our desire for possession. Deleuze qualifies as “noumenon”, philosophical term which designates all the ideas which escape the sensible world, this elusive entity “to my reach and out of reach “. Like the reflection of Narcissus, the ephelide is ” an indifferent and inexorable presence, what can be seen and cannot be touched “.

A “identity of material and immaterial”

Deleuze distinguishes two kinds of make-up: The makeup of surfaces which consists in making the surface absolutely smooth, “insignificant” in the etymological sense, inexpressive, in preserving it from any situation, from any mark of exteriority (wrinkles, scars, etc.)” And the one that accentuates the permeability of the skin, what he calls the “orifice make-up” : “The black that surrounds the eye sinks the gaze, makes it interior to itself » Where “the reddened lips are the outlet of a thick interiority, and this red, it seems that it extends inside, red as it is, red always further, under the skin, under the surface that it tints in pink. »

Like a lipstick or a mascara, freckle pencils or freckles think accentuate the porosity of the skin. “Sometimes the exterior is internalized” and ” sometimes the interior is exteriorized commented Deleuze. The ephelides embody this in-between. Neither under nor on the skin, they lodge in the epidermis. “It is this identity of the material and the immaterial, which makes the very essence of woman”, suggests Deleuze.

But the unprecedented contemporaneity of Deleuze’s text reaches its limits, with a look that we would probably judge today to be too gendered, even sexist:While Other-male is defined above all by exteriority, woman is an enormous, warm, living interiority. writes the philosopher again… who will go so far as to say that “Makeup is the formation of this interiority”, and who will then deny this youthful text.

Be that as it may, the great return of these freckles, drawn or tattooed, comes under the ” secret “. Ephemeral or permanent, it is now a matter of making “fake freckles that look natural”. Whether you are a woman or a man.

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When Deleuze praised the “exquisite lightness” of freckles

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