I almost hate to add my voice into the fray when it comes to the Anastasia Modern Renaissance palette, aka the most-hyped release of 2016, aka an undisputed inclusion in every YouTuber’s best of 2016 video, aka you have all heard this palette talked about to death. But, well, after six months of lusting after it, chasing after it at different Sephora, and finally pulling the trigger when I saw that it was in stock online and I was armed with a gift card, I love it so much that I had to write about it. I mean, I don’t want it to be a shock when I include in my best of 2017 roundup, you know? I want you guys to be like, “Duh, Clem loves that palette, of course she would be here, saying it was one of her favourites of the year only a year later than everyone else.”
Okay. Deep breath. Let’s back up.
I tend to ignore new palette releases. They just don’t interest me much. In 2016 I purchased one palette, Kat Von D Shade and Light, which was my birthday gift to myself only because Modern Renaissance was out of stock. Shade and Light is also a very functional palette, one which I can use on its own and which fills basically every gap any other eyeshadow palette leaves. It’s lovely, and was one of my favourites of 2016, but it’s not really exciting. Just very functional. Before that, the last palette I bought was… I don’t know! Because once you have a few neutral palettes, you have every neutral palette. Oh, these brands try to fool you by switching up the order of the eyeshadows or including a blue or purple here and there, but if you look at most new palette releases shade by shade you probably have almost everything in it already, and are you really going to use that shitty purple shade that Too Faced includes in every palette anyway? (No, not every palette released in 2016 was neutral, but I know that I’m definitely not going to use the UD Moondust palette ever in my life, so that didn’t catch my attention either.)
When the Modern Renaissance palette was first released, I ignored it as I do with most new palette releases. But when I saw emilynoel83’s glowing review of it, I was sold. And then I became obsessed with it for the next six months until I finally owned it.
To me, this palette toes the perfect line. It has a bunch of shades that are interesting and which I don’t already have in my collection, and the more basic shades are perfect and functional and allow me to be a lazy person and use the palette for a complete eye look without having to reach for anything else. I suppose that I don’t really need another matte medium brown, a matte dark brown, or a light shimmery champagne shade, but dammit I appreciate having them there. I’ll delve into this more in a bit.
Obviously, I love the more intense shadows – Love Letter, Venetian Red, Red Ochre, and Realgar. They’re absolutely stunning and I love the looks I’ve managed to get with them. They can be used for quite bold looks or be used more subtly. But I want to give a shoutout to some of the shades that are in the middle – not those workhorse, every-palette-should-have-them shades and not the standout reds and oranges. Buon Fresco is one of my absolute favourites: it’s a great transition shade on my skintone and, while neutral, it’s a little bit special and like nothing else I own. I really like Raw Sienna and Burnt Umber, which are both gorgeous, neutral yet interesting matte shades. I guess shades like those two aren’t super hard to come by with the current warm smokey eye trend, but I personally have nothing even close to them in my collection.
Everything you’ve heard about these shadows is true: they’re super soft and they pretty much blend themselves. I think I find them easier to work with than LORAC Pro shadows, which I love. I definitely like both the shimmers and mattes better than Urban Decay shimmers and mattes. (Are we still using UD as the gold standard for eyeshadow, or…?) These shadows do kick up a lot of powder and thus are prone to fallout if you don’t tap off your brush thoroughly, but as long as I do that I don’t have any issues. All of the shades are soft and smooth, but I’m especially impressed with the matte shadows, since those tend to be chalkier and stiffer in general. I can’t believe how soft they feel to the touch.
The brush that comes with the palette is okay – the flat side is pretty good for packing on shadow or creating the shape of the outer V. I don’t love the fluffy side, but it’s useable. Personally I’d always prefer that brands omit the brush and lower the price of the palette by a few bucks. I have a decent amount of brushes and I prefer to just use my own, which I’ve picked out, than to have a brand decide what brushes I need.
Now I do want to talk about duping this palette. Clearly, hordes of people are buying it for the intense colours, but there are a lot of shades in this palette which are pretty similar to ones that you probably own. I wanted to be really thorough here, so I busted out all my of my eyeshadow palettes to find dupes:
And here is what my lengthy investigation uncovered!
Tempera is one of the least special colours in the palette. It’s a satin finish peachy beige, and I have a lot of similar shades in my collection, though most of them lean more yellow or pink than peach. I use shades like this a lot to set my eye primer and make the shadows I put on top blend more easily, but I rarely use them on their own, so I don’t really care if this type of shade is unique.
Vermeer is a pink-leaning champagne; ABH describes it as an “iridescent shell”, which I think is fairly accurate. I have some shimmery pink shades, but nothing exactly like it. It’s not standout in its uniqueness, but it’s very versatile and it’s one of the shades that makes this palette very useable for me.
Buon Fresco is a very cool, neutral taupe with quite a lot of lavender (it didn’t photograph very well in this swatch). Everything I have that’s at all similar is a lot warmer and more brown.
Antique Bronze is, well, a bronze. I have comparable shades in my collection, though nothing I’d call a dead-on dupe.
Cyprus Umber is a deep neutral brown. I have plenty of colours that are similar, though they tend to lean a bit warmer.
Primavera is a light gold champagne. It’s deeper than a lot of my champagne shades, though lighter than some of the light golds I have. It also is far more high-shine than anything else I have. The general effect of this shadow can be duplicated throughout my collection, but again, this colour is a workhorse for me and one that I’m glad to have in this palette.
Warm Taupe is a very descriptive name for this shade. As you can see, my eyeshadow collection is full of similar shades, for good reason: most palettes include a colour like this for the crease. Again, not terribly unique (and I believe this is a shade that ABH sells individually, so it’s not exclusive to this palette), but almost necessary for a fully-functional palette.
If you’re the type of person who likes palettes to be totally unique, or who depots all your shadows, you may find this one has too many redundant shades to justify the interesting ones. However, I find that a lot of the more neutral shades don’t have exact dupes in my collection and that I use all of the shades anyway. There’s not a single colour in this palette that I’d swap out: they all serve a function, and some of the more boring colours make this palette extremely functional as a self-contained unit. In the three months that I’ve had this palette I haven’t felt the need to pull in other shades. Personally I’m a palette-lover as opposed to a collector of singles; I like having everything I need in one place, even if it means a bit of redundancy throughout my collection. Because the overall colour story of this palette is completely unique in the context of my collection, I’m not at all bothered by having borderline dupes for some of the shades. I find that everyone has a different relationship with palettes, and if you’re the type of person who prefers picking out singles to avoid dupes, you may be put off my some of the more neutral shades in this palette. However, if you’re like me, and you like to be lazy and have someone pick out colours for you and put them all in one place, you might really like this particular palette for its versatility and simultaneous usefulness and uniqueness.
And here are some looks I’ve created with this palette; hopefully these will demonstrate how versatile this particular array of shadows can be.
You would have seen this look in my review of the Bite Lip Pencils. One of my go-to looks is a bronzey or coppery eye, so I get a lot of use out of Antique Bronze. Here I deepened it up with Cyprus Umber and used Raw Sienna to add some warmth.
You can see the lavender tones in Buon Fresco a lot better here. I absolutely love this shadow in the crease paired with a light pinkish shadow all over the lid; here I’ve paired it with Vermeer, but it also looks great with NARS Callisto, which is a high shine silvery pink. To ground this particular look I added a tiny bit of Cyprus Umber for depth. This look is neutral and wearable, but I think Buon Fresco makes it a bit interesting.
This is a more dramatic cut-crease type look. Normally I avoid anything orange on myself, but I thought it looked really cool with my red hair. For extra drama I brought it down into my inner corners. I decided to leave my lower lashline bare so that it was a stark, more editorial look. My boss said she loved this look on me, and I did too!
My favourite way to wear Love Letter is in this type of shape. I did something similar a few months ago, though this time I made the eyeshadow more of a focus than the eyeliner. This shadow also looks great all over the eyelid and blended out at the edges. Obviously, it’s a dramatic look, but I’m into it.
Red Ochre is the perfect balance between neutral and dramatic, and I think it makes for an excellent focal point in a halo eye. Usually I put shadow on the outer third to half of my lower lashline, but I thought for this look it looked best all the way along. My boss loved this one on me too!
I find the Modern Renaissance palette absolutely delightful. It forcefully brought me out of an eyeshadow rut and is the first eyeshadow-related launch that’s excited me pretty much since the beginning of time (or my makeup-wearing days, anyway). I think the formula is top-notch and the shadows are thoughtfully-selected. It’s the perfect balance between familiar and novel. I get a lot of use out of this palette and I’m so glad I finally own it.
P.S. For further reading, I highly recommend Auxiliary Beauty’s thoroughly interesting post, “How Renaissance is the ABH Modern Renaissance Palette“?
P.P.S. I am blonde again because this is me and I will never be happy unless I’m blonde. Yes, my hair is staging a violent rebellion which only Olaplex can put down.