Venetian ceruse, also known as blanc de ceruse de Venise and Spirits of Saturn, was a 16th-century cosmetic used as a skin whitener. It was in great demand and considered the best available at that time. It is similar to the regular ceruse,[clarification needed ] although it was marketed as better, more exclusive and expensive than the regular ceruse variant.
A recipe from 1688 described the cosmetic as a mixture of water, vinegar, and lead. The cosmetic's use of white lead as a pigment caused lead poisoning, damaging the skin and causing hair loss. Usage over an extended period could cause death.
Elizabeth I of England is popularly imagined to have been a notable user. An account[which? ] stated that after she died and her mask removed, the cosmetics used were revealed. Critics such as Anna Riehl and Kate Maltby have argued that little historical evidence exists to support the claim that Elizabeth used ceruse.
Another devout user of the cosmetic was Isabella d'Este; her appearance demonstrated how ceruse caused permanent damage and premature aging. In 1534, an account by Pietro Aretino described her "smeared face" as "dishonestly ugly and even more dishonestly made up."