Woman and Beauty: how Caterina Sforza took care of the beauty of the body, hair, face, hands and teeth

Woman and Beauty: how Caterina Sforza took care of the beauty of the body, hair, face, hands and teeth


lady of Imola and Forlì

Portrait of Caterina Riaro Sforza by Lorenzo di Credi, Pinacoteca di Forlì, Italy.

A bit of history

Caterina Sforza was the legitimate natural daughter of Galeazzo Maria Sforza (About 1463 - Florence 1509).

At the behest of Pope Sixtus IV, he came given in marriage at the age of ten to the nephew of the pontiff himself, Girolamo Riario, to whom he brought Imola as a dowry, thus becoming the lady of Imola and Forlì.

When Pope Sixtus IV died (1484) and the reaction was unleashed in Rome against the Riario and the Della Rovere, Caterina closed herself, to keep it for her husband, in Castel Sant'Angelo, which she delivered only after two weeks against the payment of 4,000 ducats.

Assassinated Girolamo Riario (1488), Caterina Sforza supported with great firmness and fortitude in the castle of Ravaldino (Forlì) the siege of the insurgent Forlivesi, until she was recognized as regency for her minor son Ottaviano Riario Sforza, of Imola and Forlì , who governed assisted by her lover Jacopo Feo (according to some biographies it seems that she married him in secret).

After he was assassinated he avenged him with savage rigor and married Giovanni de 'Medici known as il Popolano (1496 or 1497) and from their union the leader Giovanni dalle Bande Nere was born.

After the death of her second husband Caterina Sforza, following the great political upheavals of the time she approached the Florentines who sent Machiavelli to her legation (1499).

Caterina Sforza was deposed by Pope Alexander VI and suffered the attack of the joint forces of the French and Cesare Borgia: after Imola and Forli fell, she fiercely defended herself for the second time in the fortress of Ravaldino until January 1500 until she capitulated.

She was made a prisoner and spent the last few years first in captivity in Rome, then, having renounced any claim to her domains, in exile in Tuscany.

His personality

The figure of Caterina Sforza is emblematic for her era which must be framed in a period in which, the Middle Ages was about to end and the Renaissance began to appear, immortal masterpieces were born created by the geniuses of Raphael, Michelangelo, Leonardo, Macchiavelli and Cristoforo Colombo attempting the way to the Indies.

This figure of a woman leading her soldiers into battle was admired throughout Italy and numerous were the songs and odes that were written in his honor but all have been lost except those of Marsilio Compagnon.

The writers of the Renaissance say that Caterina Sforza surpassed every other woman of her time in fame she was a tenacious, determined, very versatile woman, he dealt with herbal medicine, medicine, cosmetics and alchemy. Caterina Sforza was also a woman of incredible beauty who spent time and money to preserve them and no advice was left out regardless of where it came from: ancient oriental recipes, folk remedies, blends that came from dark monasteries that she sought with extreme tenacity as they did not exist at the time. ready-made cosmetics.

His recipes have been handed down in a book Experiments of the excellent lady Caterina da Forlì composed of four hundred and seventy-one healing and beauty remedies for the face and body with indications for the preparation of ointments, ointments, mixtures, water that Caterina prepared with the help of the court apothecaries. These remedies are real experiments with which Caterina Sforza delighted and experimented on herself.

Beauty recipes by Caterina Sforza

Whiten the skin and heal it from sunburn "To make your face very white and beautiful and colorful"

To grow hair "To make your hair grow"

To make your hair blonde and beautiful "To make your blond hair of the color of gold"

To make your teeth white and shiny

To make your breath smell good

To have the skin of the hands white and soft "To make your hands white and so beautiful that they will look like ivory"

“Caterina Sforza. The experiments of the Ex.Ma S.Ra Caterina da Furlj ”by Paolo Aldo Rossi

Prof. Paolo Aldo Rossi, you edited the book edition Caterina Sforza. The experiments of the Ex.Ma S.Ra Caterina da Furlj published by Castel Negrino: what are the profile and historical importance of Caterina Sforza?
Caterina Sforza was born in Milan in 1463 daughter of Duke Galeazzo Maria Sforza, she was raised by her grandmother Bianca Maria Visconti and her stepmother Bona di Savoia. He learned to ride a horse and to deal with weapons like a young prince, but he will not neglect his spirit and thanks to the artists and poets with whom he loved to surround himself his father will acquire that culture and taste that will constitute his greatest charm. When the eleven-year-old girl was brought before Pietro Riario, the pope's nephew, struck by her beauty, by the vivacity of her wit, by the classical culture of which the child was forced by her father to give an essay, he was admired and the filled with caresses, compliments, gifts. Caterina married Sixtus IV's nephew, Gerolamo Riario, and became countess of Imola and Forli.

Once in Rome the proportions of the sumptuousness of the celebrations and ceremonies towered up to the meeting with the old pope, who seemed to be delighted at the sight of the fresh and laughing youth of Catherine, who made her solemn entry into Rome, from Porta Angelica where Sixtus IV awaited her and a great equestrian tournament in Piazza Navona, organized by the Riario in her honor until her wedding in S. Pietro by the pope amid a moan of ladies, knights, cardinals and ambassadors. But it is on the death of the pope that Catherine, twenty-one, demonstrates for the first time, and will not be the last, her virility (so much so that she is considered a woman endowed with virile strength and daring throughout her life). While serious unrest broke out in Rome between Pope Sixtus's partisans and their opponents, the fearful husband who was with his family at the siege of Palliano stopped to wait for events, while Caterina, in the seventh month of pregnancy, rode towards Castel Sant Angelo and in agreement with the commanders of the militias, he let the cardinals know that, since the late pope had left him to her husband, he would hand him over to the new pope. The Conclave could not be held with cannons aimed from that formidable stronghold and therefore it was dealt with on its terms: 8000 ducats, the compensation of all the looted assets, the life office of captain of the Church for her husband and the vicariate of Imola and of Forlì under the same previous conditions.

During these seven years Caterina came into contact with the great painters, sculptors, poets and writers of the Pope's court (Botticelli, Ghirlandaio, Perugino, Luca Signorelli ...), but also the scholars of the Roman Academy (Platina, Argiropulo, Regiomontano ...) , the reborn Sistine Chapel, the Capitoline Museum, the Santo Spirito Hospital ...

In these years he increasingly assumed the reins of the state, as Gerolamo was ill. Caterina, as she had already done in Rome, also revealed herself in Romagna by suddenly removing the fortress of Ravaldino from the castellan Melchiorre Zacchaeus of whom she distrusted and whom she had treacherously killed, then inquiring and sentencing alone, while her husband was ill, about a conspiracy that had the ousted Ordelaffi as conspirators and certain Raffi, peasants from Rubano, as executors. In this case Caterina proceeded with the cruelty typical of the time, but with equity and justice absolutely superior to what was the custom for the lords of the fifteenth century.

Then between the assassination of Zacchaeus and the punishment of the conspirators she gave birth to her sixth son, Francesco, who later called Sforzino to renew the name of his glorious paternal grandfather. The previous sons had been: by Girolamo Riario Bianca, Ottaviano, Cesare, Giovanni Livio, Galeazzo and Francesco, then by Giacomo Feo: Bernardino and by Giovanni de 'Medici: Lodovico, later called Giovanni, the famous captain called the Black Bands

The restoration of the duties that mainly damaged the artisans, the land tax that hit above all the aristocracy and not least the spirit of revenge of the families sacrificed by the criminal justice of the Riario contributed to making the climate more favorable than ever to the conspiracy that took place. April 14, 1488 at the hands of the nobles Checco Orsi, Giacomo Ronchi and Lodovico Pansechi. Girolamo Riario was stabbed to death in his palace in Forlì in 1488 and his body thrown out of the window because in the square the angry people demanded it, demonstrating how the conspiracy had been expected and prepared by both social classes. Caterina took refuge in the fortress of Ravaldino with an expedient: (here for the second time she saves the state) in agreement with the castellan of the stronghold, Tommaso Feo, who sent word of not wanting to leave the fortress without the Lady going there to sign her surrender, but as soon as Caterina entered the castle she immediately had the cannons aimed at the city. The conspirators then let her know that if she did not immediately hand Ravaldino over, they would kill all her children and her family who were hostage. And here is that shameless gesture for which she was famous over the centuries: her response to that threat would have entered the legend: "Catherine advanced among the battlements of the castle, looked at those who had launched the threat and then, with a brusque gesture and obscene flaunted his possibility of having more children if the hostages were killed ”. When the armies of the Duke of Milan and Bentivoglio finally came to the aid of Caterina, the killers of Girolamo, after having unsuccessfully tried to get back the Countess's children, were forced to flee, but none of them took refuge in Florence from Lorenzo, much less to Milan. On April 30, 1488, at the age of 25, Caterina began her government over Imola and Forlì, from this moment, having taken the dominion of Romagna, she proved that she could alone rule a state, preside over a government, and captain an army.

She met for the first time a relationship, not imposed by the demands of power, but spontaneously sprouted: Giacomo Feo, whom she secretly married and with whom she had a son. He too was killed on August 27, 1495 while returning from a hunting party: the carriage was attacked by the conspirators, who emerged numerous and threw themselves on him, riddling him with stabs.

Then came true love, Giovanni di Pierfrancesco de 'Medici, known as the Popolano, who is sent as ambassador to Caterina and educated, distinguished, beautiful, knows how to do his part so well that he quickly becomes a friend, lover, husband. and absolute ruler of the terrible woman, once again made meek and sweet by virtue of love. Giovanni died of illness in San Pietro in Bagni on 15 September 1498, a few months after Caterina was granted Florentine citizenship for herself, her children and future ones, but first she had declared that she had married Giovanni, father of Ludovico and to assume the protection of the child. Little Ludovico remained of this love, whom she called Giovanni in memory of her father, the future Giovanni dalle Bande Nere, a brave leader destined for memorable deeds, if death had not crushed him, at only twenty-eight years old, with a gangrene neglected by an ignorant doctor.

Madonna, who had been amazed at the misadventure of the Duke of Milan, her only protector, suspecting that Valentino, once the Lombardy campaign had ended, would have had militias and weapons from the King of France to take over Romagna, she began to enlist soldiers who she trained in person, to stock up on weapons, provisions and ammunition, to fortify fortresses and to place artillery with the firm intention of opposing the armed oppression of the Borgias.

In 1499 some cases of bubonic plague appeared in the city and in a short time the infection spread from one family to another, but Caterina, as she had already done in previous similar circumstances, took drastic measures to contain the epidemic and alleviate the suffering of the his subjects, all the more so as now the spread of the plague risked compromising the resistance capacity of his state, threatened with war by the Valentino. Once again his fears were well founded: the Valentino was given fifteen thousand Frenchmen for the Romagna enterprise while the Republic of Florence and all the States that had not entered the league were ordered, except for armed retaliation, not to give any help to those who would have been attacked in the name of the pontiff. It was Catherine's great moment. Having placed her children in safety in Florence, except for the eldest son Ottaviano, sent to Imola to follow the defense works, without dismay she prepared herself alone for the resistance, determined to defend the State and the rights of her descendants with all her might. Cesare Borgia, after having fallen from the county by order of the Pope, placed a price on the countess's head, trusting in the betrayal: ten thousand ducats to whoever had delivered her away or died.

The most admired during the siege was Catherine who, protected only by a cuirass, dragged her people and fascinated the French her half-woman, half-soldier figure dominated the scene and it was always she who, at the head of reckless sorties, with the sword he faced his enemies in furious hand-to-hand combat. The Countess objected but in the end she had to rejoice at having fallen into French hands, as the laws of France did not allow women to be held captive. With the capture of the lady, the whole fortress surrendered. It was the evening of January 12, 1500. Catherine was 37 years old. Catherine, captured in the name of the bailiff of Dijon, was to be considered under the protection of the king of France and therefore should have been set free, but Valentino did not intend to give up his prey knowing that the pope wished to be taken to him. The decision was therefore made for provisional custody. In addition to Caterina, her adopted son Scipione Riario, some of her ladies, the chancellor Baldraccani, Giovanni da Casale, the poet Marullo, the wife of Dionisio Naldi with her children and various other characters belonging to noble families or wealthy were taken prisoner, later released because unable to pay the ransom. The anonymous soldiers were slaughtered instead. The countess was accompanied to a house where Valentino was staying. Bernardi refers to the sexual violence of Valentino when he speaks "of the injustices in the body of our poor and unfortunate fingers Madonna, zoé Caterina Sforcia, who was very shapely de so corpe" and then: "Valentino with his hands imprisoned Catherine … I am silent about what Duke Valentino dared to do to this Most Noble Woman, etc…. ”, A Vatican chronicler deals with the same topic in a very veiled tone, speaking of violence done to the prisoner and of“ cruel tortures ”. In the diplomatic notes and in the courts, in the pages of chroniclers and among the military people, in the political writings of contemporaries and in the squares, the Lady of Forlì was praised. Equally significant were the acknowledgments of the French and even of the Venetians, the latter of whom "even though this madam had been hostile to the Venetian state" wrote that the irreducible rival "truly deserves infinite praise and immortal memory among the famous and most worthy Roman captains". Even Isabella Gonzaga, famous for culture and elegance, wanted to enhance Caterina's "valor" and with a touch of all-female pride said that "if Franzosi blame the cowardice of li homeni, at least they must praise the courage and valor of Italian ladies ". And Guicciardini defines Caterina "among so many defenders filled with a feminine soul, the only one with a virile soul".

Caterina left Forlì forever on 23 January 1500. Louis XII had not given up on the conquest of the kingdom of Naples planned in '99, he had only postponed it and in the spring of 1501 his army descended into Italy under the command of Ivo d'Allègre il which, on June 20, he presented himself to the pope in Rome. Learning that Catherine was locked up in Castel S. Angelo, mindful of the commitment made by Valentino the year before, she asked for her release in the name of the King of France. Alexander VI had to surrender, simply asking that the Lady of Forlì and Imola, before the liberation, sign the renunciation of his states. So he went secretly at night to Ostia and there he embarked for Livorno from where he continued incognito to Florence. In the Medici city, Caterina was welcomed by her brother-in-law Lorenzo who placed her in possession of her husband's assets (Caterina enjoyed Florentine citizenship since July 26, 1498) and her children gathered around her, a reminder of her loves and mistakes. Upon the death of Pope Borgia Caterina did not give up and sent her messenger Antenore Giovannetti to Venice to ask for help also from that lordship: she would have made herself completely available to the Serenissima if helped to return to her states, she would also have arranged a marriage between Octavian and the daughter of a Venetian gentleman, but the Venetians, knowing that the countess did not enjoy the sympathies of the chamberlain cardinal Raffaele Riario, dropped the proposal.

In April 1509, Our Lady fell seriously ill, but was able to recover.The healing was the last flicker of an impetuous fiber now consumed. Feeling close to death, but with her mind still perfectly clear, as her will testifies, she expressed her last wishes before a notary. He died in Florence on May 28, 1509 and his nephew Cosimo de 'Medici had Caterina Sforza Medici written on his tombstone. Not only Sforza no longer Sforza Riario. But Caterina Sforza Medici: mother of Giovanni dalle Bande Nere.

Similar books

What events did Caterina Sforza's manuscript go through?
In October 1887, in Rome, Count Pier Desiderio Pasolini of Ravenna came into possession of a sixteenth-century manuscript entitled Experiments of the Ex.ma S.ra Caterina da Furlj Matre de lo Inlux.mo Mr. Giouanni De 'Medici copied from her autographs by Count Lucantonio Cuppano, colonel in the military services of Giovanni De' Medici known as Dalle Bande Nere.

It was the code of Caterina Sforza, containing recipes for cosmetics, medicine and chemistry, which Count Lucantonio Cuppano, officer of Giovanni Dalle Bande Nere's army, had transcribed around 1525, however, copying only a part of it by hand, as evidenced by the two different scripts.

A single handwriting, perhaps dating back to the end of the 1400s, presented another manuscript found in Florence around 1865 by Senator Marco Tabarrini and entitled To make it beautiful. The topics covered in the book were the same as those of the codex found by Pasolini and on the first page you could read the name of Caterina Sforza. Could it have been the original, written personally by Caterina? Probably yes, but the loss of this work prevents further studies. The recipe book found was published by Pasolini himself in Imola, in March 1891, in only 102 numbered copies. "This cookbook - he writes inIntroductionit is perhaps the most complete and most important document known so far on perfumery and medicine from the beginning of the 16th century ”.

In the "simple" garden that he had wanted to rise inside the large park near the citadel of Ravaldino, herbs were grown for the kitchen and medicinal herbs for the workshop of his experiment which must have been a real laboratory of alchemy with cauldrons, retorts and stills capable of extracting and distilling and then composing medicines, creams and beauty lotions. In order to collect news and always steal new secrets, Caterina did not hesitate to use even illicit means and for the same purpose she kept in correspondence with doctors, alchemists and practitioners, especially with the Forlivian apothecary Lodovico Albertini who remained fond of her throughout his life. , continuing to bring her “robba de la botega”, even when she was now living in Florence.

The 471 "Experiments of the Ecc.ma Signora Caterina da Furlj", there are many recipes copied from the countess's manuscript and published under this title, represent the concrete result of this research, in some cases accompanied by direct experimentation, in others the product of personal invention, in still others simple transcription of other people's formulas or popular dictates.

What does the cookbook contain?
The recipes of Caterina's codex appear anything but uniform: some are written in Latin, others in vulgar Italian, still others, perhaps when Madonna wishes not to be understood by everyone, half in one and half in the other language, with use of idioms typical of the Romagna region.

There are 357 medicine recipes, displayed according to the officinal system, that is, with an indication of the preparation method. With them the most varied diseases were treated: leprosy, plague, smallpox, fractures, sciatica, "cancheri", gout, stones, stomach and intestinal dysfunctions, "malcaduco", deafness, cough, visual disturbances, respiratory tract diseases and urinary. There is no shortage of first aid preparations in case of injuries or bites from animals the wormers to remove intestinal parasites then so frequent the deadly purges based on poisonous hellebore, an extreme remedy for extreme evils the complex elixirs of long life to chase the dream ever satisfied with an eternal youth. The Lady of Forlì also collected and experimented with compounds based on aromatic herbs for incense and fumigations which, slowly consumed in braziers, pleasantly perfumed the rooms and covered miasma and malodours.

The cosmetics recipes that "Madonna" offers us are 84 and offer lotions, ointments, ointments, smooths, powders, waters "to make beautiful", make-up and perfumes to preserve the line, smooth, firm, lighten, depilate, cleanse, tone , moisturize, make up and perfume.

Perhaps Caterina's insistence on these two aspects of female beauty (rosy complexion and wheat-colored hair) may have led biographers to describe it as conforming to the canons of the time or it could be that the Lady of Forlì had artfully obtained what nature he had denied. Unfortunately we do not have a sure iconographic and descriptive material to establish whether Catherine was really fair in complexion and blonde by nature, her face appears to us without color, in the cold bronze of the medallions of the time, and the portraits we have available are later than hers. existence, but it can help us to imagine her beautiful among the beautiful women of her time, as she wished to appear, her contemporary and first biographer Felice Foresti from Bergamo who wrote of her: "Catherine is one of the most beautiful women of our century, of elegant appearance and endowed with admirable forms ”.

The chronicles of the contemporary Andrea Bernardi show her tall, well proportioned and with a shapely appearance, with large rather protruding eyes, high and arched eyebrows, an important nose with a slightly convex profile (typical of the Sforza), a pronounced chin and a penetrating and proud gaze. Educated, but without the culture and economic possibilities of other Renaissance noblewomen, it finally seems that she loved elegance and that her well-known parsimony was lacking when it came to personal care: the richness of the fabrics and the large number of inventoried dresses, as well as the conspicuous sum of which at his death he was indebted to Lodovico Albertini, his trusted apothecary, can only confirm this information.

Among the recipes, about fifteen are defined as 'aphrodisiacs'.
Courageous "virago", equally known for her intense appetites, the Lady of Forlì, with her aphrodisiac recipes, did not limit herself, as she tells us, "to making luxuriation priceless", but even managed to "make the whole member stay hard. the night". In her alchemy laboratory, recommended by apothecaries and apothecaries, but also by charlatans and mammans, like a village witch she distilled vital substances to fight "against the defect of nature in any homo or person unable to use female cum" and devised formulas effective for getting pregnant, getting pregnant and "making a woman not touch anyone other than you". "Take civet, he advised the jealous, one caratio, musk one caratto et foul impalpable and sets all things together with green ginger syrup, then each the head of the member and uses it with a woman".

Caterina's love recipe book has nothing to envy to a sexology manual, the knowledge shown by Madonna in erotic matters is truly extraordinary and we are sure that if there were many men she was able to cope with in political matters, perhaps more they were the ones she questioned in the no less important bed battles.

The intense demand for pleasure during the Renaissance period, not only on the male side (indeed it seems that it was women who had a dominant role in sexual matters) is evident from Caterina's cookbook, where, alongside cosmetic preparations admirable in making the feminine weapons of seduction and consequently in igniting desire, we find singular artifices to "restore" worn or tired or incapacitated parts and in her alchemy laboratory (in the Rocca di Ravaldino where her botanical garden was), recommended by doctors, apothecaries and apothecaries from Romagna and Tuscany, but also by charlatans and mammane, barbers and butchers, like a village witch distilled vital substances suitable "as much as you will like to party". But the much-maligned aphrodisiac recipes are only about fifteen remedies that in some way pertain to sexuality, when Experiments they are 471 and 84 of cosmetics and smooth "to make beautiful"

How had Caterina developed her phytotherapeutic skills?
And precisely in the years of her childhood, visiting Cristoforo de Brugora, apothecary from Bona di Savoia, her adoptive mother, and her botanical garden, Caterina became passionate about health recipes and gardens with herbarium

But Caterina is an experimenter of money order and apart from the lapidary, which everyone reported, and the sexual "analogies" with plants and animals, the phytotherapy (use of plants or herbal extracts for treatment and healing) of Caterina Sforza is at the forefront for his time.

The recipes of Caterina's code appear anything but uniform: some are written in Latin (not macaronic but certainly "not Bembiano"), others in vulgar Italian, still others, when Madonna suggests that she does not want to be understood by everyone, half in one and half in the other language, with the use of a code in ciphered language that is “very understandable” and also with idiotisms typical of the Romagna region seasoned with Lombard words. Then Cuppano did the rest: a seventeen-year-old colonel of the most terrible soldiers of the time who improvises himself as a copyist!

The book entitled “A far bella” belongs to this relatively quiet period, in which Caterina gathered the recipes that served her precisely for that purpose and which can rightly be considered the first cosmetics manual. The recipes mostly concern ointments designed to soften the skin, to protect it from frost and sunburn, but also herbal decoctions to clean the intestines, powders (rosemary charcoal, scraping of kid's horn) to make teeth whiter, extracted from plants to dye her hair and in general anything that could contribute to improving her appearance and making her attractive in the eyes of her contemporaries

What is the historical and cultural value of the work?
Catherine inherits a state built as a prototype of nepotism and does everything to maintain it by opposing anyone from her uncle to the king of France, the Pope and Duke Valentino. She holds court open to all sorts of playful, literary, scientific activities, intrepid in arms, devourer of medical-pharmaceutical works, knows how to be extremely competent in aphrodisiac practices, a whole crowd of patients and practitioners use and compete with her, connoisseur of Galen and Avicenna , she behaves like a village witch and knows how to reinforce and quench the ardors of love, she knows the secrets to make one impregnate and make pregnant, she knows the measures and countermeasures of love potions. Her love recipe book is a real mine for the erotologist and her knowledge of sexuality is truly extraordinary. Caterina knows no limits, she tries and experiences everything that can calm her strong appetites and, as a true professional, catalogs, analyzes, studies the most intimate recesses of the physiology and psychology of sex. Daughter of her own century, she knows no limits and shows a freedom of morals and a boldness that could only leave a terrible sense of frustration in the male for having been abundantly surpassed by her as a champion of “very luxuriare”.

This cookbook - he writes in Introduction the Pasolini - it is perhaps the most complete and most important document known so far on perfumery and medicine from the beginning of the 16th century of his time.

A "woman" Catherine has therefore existed, beyond the reputation of "virago" attributed to her by tradition, and beautiful, gallant and refined, with her passion for the secrets of water and the arcana of distillation she has provided us with the most complete and important recipe book. hitherto known on the perfumery and medicine of the sixteenth century, a recipe book that she enriched from year to year, which she always kept with her, like a diary, even in the turbulent days of the last siege, even in the melancholy solitude of decline. While an army of 12,000 soldiers was preparing to besiege the fortress of Ravaldino, Madonna, after having reinforced the defenses and placed the cannons, was relaxing by writing to a Florentine friend to get her glass pottery and stills: "Mandatice balls tre de vetro tondo they have the small hole and that they keep doi bucali de measurement and XII marine onions that if they call schille, that as soon as possible the mandarites will be more grateful ".

A decade later, in March 1508, a year before his death, he had Anna, a Jewish woman from Rome, ask for some recipes for face creams and "a black ointment" against cellulite "which thins the flesh and makes it smooth. ".

Catherine's great interest in magical therapeutic recipes, cosmetics and alchemy, came from the late ancient world and oriental culture, from remote traditions deposited in the "workshops" of the monasteries and entrusted to the courts and domestic knowledge of the "witches" and of the wives, barbers and charlatans.

The beauty secrets of the Casa d’Este women

The Renaissance marks the return to body care The perfumes of Isabella and the blonde "tint" of Lucrezia Borgia

A few months ago, on the occasion of a conference, I had the honor of sharing the speakers' table with distinguished professors of our University such as Stefano Manfredini and Silvia Vertuani, together with Gianluca Lodi (doctor and historian of health from Ferrara). During the meeting, entitled "Cosmetics and places of beauty at the time of the Este family and today", I dealt with some specific historical aspects.

First of all, it should be remembered that, after all, the culture of the Middle Ages had shown that it somehow feared female beauty and its influence on men, albeit with several exceptions. The Renaissance, on the other hand, attributed a new and positive value to both beauty and cosmetics.

. Caterina Sforza, Isabella d'Este and Lucrezia Borgia.

Caterina Sforza, lady of Forlì in the second half of the 15th century, was a woman of great personality and beauty. But today we want to remember Caterina for the 454 recipes of her "experiments", which concern among other things medicine and chemistry, but sixty are related to the cosmetics used to "straighten" (as it was said at the time), that is, to cure the aesthetics of the face and the beauty of the skin and hair in general. The fundamental aesthetic principles relating to the fair sex which Caterina drew inspiration from were those already mentioned, that is, the same ones that were referred to in France, Spain, Germany or England, as well as in our peninsula. There are several recipes based on various ingredients to make the face "beautiful" and make the skin clear and firm. One of these is taken up by Giovan Ventura Rosetti in his book on the art of perfumes, published in Venice in 1555, when he speaks to us of "an admirable water for women", excellent for washing the face, hands and the whole person, to be used two or three times a week, since “it makes the flesh young, and keeps those who wash with this water healthy”. All this shows us that, even if the concept of personal hygiene was still to come, the conviction was gaining ground that improving the appearance, even with the help of cosmetics, could have a positive effect on health.

Keep in mind that during the Renaissance, with the introduction of alcohol-based perfumes, such as rose water or other flowers, effective antiseptics could be available, to be used even in cases where it was necessary to disperse odors. unsightly bodily, considered potentially harmful. Furthermore, it may be useful to remember that, properly diluted, these and other waters were used to perfume even large rooms: in Ferrara, for example, Duke Ercole I d'Este in 1499 had perfumed the Great Hall of the Ducal Palace (now destroyed) after the performance of a classic comedy, Terenzio's Eunuchus, followed by hundreds of people. In many cases perfumed waters were preferred to soap (sometimes too alkaline or too caustic), which however it seems that the Este Court was used quite frequently, and not only for washing clothes, since already in the first decades after the construction of the Estense Castle (1385) we find in the fortress workshops for the production of wax and soap.

As is well known, Isabella d'Este (daughter of Ercole I d'Este and Eleonora d'Aragona, as well as marquise of Mantua) attended one of her renowned perfumery workshops in the Lombard city, where she created various mixtures on a rose water base ( such as the Damask Rose or the Red Rose of May), or water-based nanfa (from the Arabic name), which is obtained from the distillation of orange blossoms. To these waters, according to the scholar Daniela Pizzigalli, Isabella added the most diverse ingredients from our areas and Renaissance gardens such as mint or marjoram, together with other decidedly exotic components such as amber, Indonesian musk, Egyptian balsam, Arabic incense and Indian aloe. Some perfumes by Isabella d'Este were considered so precious that she even gave them to the Queen of France as a gift.In addition to this, the Marquise of Mantua also experimented with cosmetics for nails and hair dyes, not to forget that, the desire to always look beautiful and to rival other famous ladies such as Lucrezia Borgia, induced Isabella (especially with the advancement of age) to make up to excess, today we would say to put on make-up with the excessive use of cosmetics. From all this it is clear that the production of cosmetic products and perfumes was considered a fascinating and prestigious activity, so much so that it was even carried out by noblewomen of great fame.

Speaking of Lucrezia Borgia, Duchess of Ferrara from 1505 to 1519, we can still see a lock of her hair in a precious reliquary in the Pinacoteca Ambrosiana in Milan, much admired by Lord George Gordon Byron (1788-1824). and Gabriele D'Annunzio it must be said, however, that the beautiful Lucrezia in her rooms of the Castel Vecchio (Castello Estense) probably made use of waters based on natural substances to make her legendary hair blonde. Furthermore, we learn from the biographer Sarah Bradford that the journey of January 1502 from Rome to Ferrara undertaken by the famous daughter of the pope, new wife of Duke Alfonso I d'Este, took a very long time, also due to some stops, because Lucrezia loved to wash often. hair, an operation that for many noblewomen of the time involved some beauty treatments, including dyeing.

The places linked to beauty at the Court of Ferrara

Today, only the "Camerino delle Duchesse" in the Doge's palace remains to evoke the fifteenth-sixteenth century places of Ferrara dedicated to beauty: a precious casket, conceived according to some historians for Eleonora and Lucrezia d'Este (daughters of Duke Ercole II), who here dressed, dressed up, in short, made themselves beautiful. The "stanzino", richly decorated between 1555 and 1560, is largely attributed to Cesare, Camillo and above all Sebastiano Filippi (known as Bastianino).

Yet, the environments dedicated to the pleasure and health of the body were different in the Este era. Just think of the bathrooms built in the second half of the fifteenth century at the behest of Ercole I d'Este at the Castle and in the vicinity of the Duke's Garden, later known as the Duchesses (1481), the one near the garden was equipped with a stove to heat the water, since, as the fifteenth-century chronicler Ugo Caleffini stated, the duke liked to "bathe" often, and probably also to the noblewomen of the court. In general, the water came from the Po di Ferrara through a complex hydraulic system, which Biagio Rossetti had also worked on, but some archival documents, partly published by the historian Thomas Tuohy, show that in 1493 they were brought to the Doge's palace of Ferrara (for the baths of Hercules) several barrels of thermal waters and mud from Padua, in particular from Abano and from San Bartolomeo in the Euganean Hills.

In fact, the benefits for the body in contact with thermal waters and muds were known, as they favored, among other things, the resolution of chronic inflammatory processes and various types of dermatosis, with great benefits from an aesthetic point of view, especially for uncovered parts such as the face which, with the subsequent use of cosmetics, assumed a particularly pleasant appearance, being smoother and more luminous.

The bathrooms at the Este Court were equipped with rather large tubs, with steps to descend and benches for sitting, enriched by vaults and decorated marble walls. Sumptuous and refined environments, where you could relax among warm thermal waters and intoxicating scents, the latter theme which I will deal with more extensively at the next occasion.

Essential bibliography consulted: C. Menini, Cosmetics at the Estense Court in a collection of recipes from the second half of the 16th century, Ferrara 1955 T. Tuohy, Herculean Ferrara. Ercole d'Este (1471-1505) and the invention of a ducal capital, Cambridge 1996 F. Fiumi and G. Tempesta, The "experiments" of Caterina Sforza, in Caterina Sforza a woman of the sixteenth century, Imola 2000, pp. 139-146 D. Pizzigalli, The lady of the Renaissance. Life and splendors of Isabella d'Este at the Court of Mantua, Milan 2001 M. A. Laughran, Beyond the skin. Cosmetics and their use, in Storia d'Italia, Annali 19. La Moda, edited by C. M. Belfanti and F. Giusberti, Turin 2003, pp. 43-82 U. Caleffini, Chronicles 1471-1494, Ferrara 2006 G. Vigarello, History of beauty. The body and the art of embellishing oneself from the Renaissance to today, trans. by M. L'Erario, Rome 2007.

Princess Sissi's absurd beauty routine, including meat juices and snail-based creams!

An obsession with gymnastics and the gym, strict diets, luxurious and complicated beauty rituals, the terror of getting old: am I talking about Victoria Beckham? Absolutely not, I am referring to what has been called thehe most beautiful woman in the world ... about 150 years ago: Sissi, the Empress of Austria!

Elizabeth of Bavaria, called Sissi or Sisi, was one of the most female figures controversial of European history if you know the films with Romy Schneider or the romantic Cartoon in which she seemed madly in love with Prince Franz, well, forget it, because reality was far away! Theirs was a unhappy marriage, mainly because Sissi was too much independent for the life of the court, which was close to her. She took refuge in her absurd beauty rituals, which occupied her all day:

Wake up at 5 every morning and invigorating bath inice water sessions began immediately grueling gymnastics in private gyms that was built in every building. The exercise continued to horse: Sissi was one of the best horse riders in Europe and could ride for hours, until the poor animals were tired. He also practiced the fencing and forced her lady-in-waiting to follow her for endless walks in the woods (they also lasted about ten hours). The meals were few, unregulated: today it is thought that Sissi was ill with nervous anorexia, probably a reaction to the constraints of her role as empress, and she was obsessed with weight and fitness. It was about tall 1.72 m and came to weigh 45 kg, always keeping a wasp waist of just 50 cm think that every day they sewed her clothes to emphasize her slenderness!

He invented unlikely strict diets: he drank violet tea all day and to purify himself he swallowed a drink based on 5 egg whites and salt. In some periods it seems that he ate alone raw meat is milk, in others even squeezed meat juice (hehe other than detox smoothies!) also he weighed and measured himself up to three times a day.

Every night he did a bath in goat milk (he had his own flock) to keep the skin soft and young, a bit like Cleopatra who dipped in donkey milk if she had spent the day on horseback, instead, she preferred the olive oil, to relax the muscles. Washing your hair was not an easy task and the ritual, which was repeated every four days, it lasted a whole day you may be wondering why ... well, her thick hair reached her ankles! They were his great pride and he took great care of them: his servants used to wash them a mixture of eggs (12) and cognac (a whole bottle) and I guess rinsing it was not easy. Daily hairstyles took at least two or three hours and all the falling hair was presented to her in one silver bowl to be counted and inspected as a final touch, jewelry is personalized perfumes adorned the foliage.

The most absurd beauty rituals were probably there cream based on lard, snails and mallow roots that he had the court pharmacists prepare (that's what the snail facial is inspired by!), or the strange habit of sleeping with thin slices of veal placed on the face!

A British journalist spent a day with Sissi!

Always at night she hugged her hips with warm vinegar-soaked bandages, thinking they helped keep the waist slim. It actually also had some more pleasant concoctions: it would be worth trying the mask with honey and crushed strawberries which he used to soften, exfoliate and brighten the complexion!

In general, Sissi was a woman unhappy, who suffered a lot in life was often ill, although it is assumed that the problems were more of a nature psychic, in fact, his conditions improved as soon as he left Vienna. Certainly her exaggerated beauty rituals are fascinating, especially when you think about how much they were modern for the time I think Sissi was born in the wrong time and in the wrong context and would probably be one of many today underweight models parading on the catwalk… Although I don't think it would be happier!

Girls, did you know Sissi's story? What do you think? It's not exactly what cartoons and films suggest ...

Christ Stopped in Eboli - Carlo Levi, Part 12

I was left with books, medicines and advice, and I needed them right away. Apart from contagions, even the most disparate and extraneous diseases go in groups. In some weeks there are no sick or only light things: but when a serious case is found, you can be sure that soon others will show up. In fact, one of these periods, the first after my arrival, happened immediately after my sister's departure: a series of difficult and dangerous cases, which frightened me. All the diseases down here, after all, always take on an excessive and deadly aspect, very different from what I was used to seeing in the well-ordered beds of the University Medical Clinic of Turin. It will be the state of chronic anemia of the old malarials, it will be malnutrition, it will be the poor reaction to the disease of these passive and resigned men: certainly one sees, from the first day of illness, the most disparate symptoms, the faces of the sufferers, tumultuously overlap. take on the distressed aspect of agony. And I passed from wonder to wonder, seeing these sick people, whom any good doctor would have judged lost, improve and heal with the most elementary care. It seemed that a strange luck helped me.

I also visited the Archpriest in those days. He had intestinal hemorrhages, but, in his misanthropy, he did not talk about it, and continued to walk around the town, without treatment. It was Don Cosimino, the angel of the post office, the only confidant of the old man who spent hours in the post office and recited his epigrams to him, who asked me to go and see him as if for a courtesy visit, and to see in the meantime if I could make something for him. Don Trajella lived with his mother in a large room, a kind of cavern, in a dark alley not far from the church. When I went in to him, I found him eating with his mother: they had only one plate and one glass. The plate was full of badly cooked beans, which were all dinner: mother and son, in that corner of the table without a tablecloth, took turns fishing for us with old tin forks. In the back of the cavern, separated by a tattered green curtain, there were two twin beds, that of Don Giuseppe and that of the old woman, not yet redone. Against the wall lay a great pile of books on the ground in disorder: on the pile lay hens. Other chickens ran and fluttered around the room, which hadn't been swept in who knows how long: a henhouse stench gripped the throat. The Archpriest, who liked me and considered me, with Don Cosimino, among the few people with whom one could speak because they were not his enemies, welcomed me with pleasure, with a smile on his witty and suffering face. She introduced me to her mother if I forgive her if she did not answer me: it was vetula et infirma. And he immediately offered me a glass of wine, which I had to accept, so as not to offend him, in that one glass of his which he must have served for years, without ever having been washed, to him and the old woman, as far as I could tell from the greasy and black gromma. that encrusted him all around. Don Trajella had no servants and was by now so used to that lonely filth that he no longer paid any attention to it. When, after we had talked about his ills, he noticed that I was looking curiously at the pile of books, he said to me: - What do you want? In this country, he doesn't count on reading. I had some good books, do you see them? There are rare editions. When I came here, those scoundrels who brought them, out of spite they smeared them with pitch. The desire to open them is gone, and I left them there on the ground: they have been there for many years. ' I approached the heap: the books were covered with a layer of dust and hen dung: here and there, on the leather ribs, you could really see a few spots of pitch, a reminder of the ancient attack. I removed a few at random: they were old seventeenth-century volumes of theology, casuistry, the Stories of the Saints, and Fathers of the Church, and Latin poets. It must have been, before being thus reduced to a poultry house, the good library of a cultured and curious priest. Among the books some crumpled and smeared pamphlets sprang out: the work of Don Trajella: historical and apologetic studies on Saint Calogero of Avila. "He's a little-known Spanish saint," the Archpriest explained to me. - I also made some paintings, temporibus illis, which represent the various episodes of his life, some kind of polyptychs -. I insisted that he show them to me and he made up his mind to get them out from under the bed, from where, he told me, he hadn't exhumed them since the day he arrived. They were tempera of popular taste, but far from ineffective, with many minute and very refined figures, composite paintings, with the birth, life, miracles, death, and glory of the saint. Statuettes also came out from under the bed, also the work of the priest, small angels and Baroque saints in painted wood and terracotta, modeled with easy grace in the taste of the Neapolitan cribs of the seventeenth century. I congratulated the unexpected colleague. - I have not done anything since I am here, in partibus in fidelium, to lend, as they say, the sacraments of Holy Mother Church to these heretics who do not want to know. I used to have fun doing these little things. But here, in this country, you can't. He doesn't count on doing anything here. Have another glass of wine, Don Carlo -. While I was trying to avoid, under a pretext, the terrible glass, far more bitter than all possible filters, the old mother, who had hitherto remained still and as if absent in her chair, suddenly stood up, shouting and shaking her hands. arms. The frightened chickens began to flutter around the room, on the beds, on the books, on the table. Don Trajella began to chase them here and there to get them off the sheets, shouting: "Accursed country!" And they screamed more and more stupidly in terror, raising clouds of brilliant dust in the thread of sunlight that entered through the crack of the half-closed window. I took advantage of the confusion to get out of it, amidst that great flying of feathers and swaying black skirts.

Very different, fortunately for me, from poor Trajella, his predecessor must have been, a fat, rich, cheerful and joyful priest, famous in the village for good food and numerous children, and died, it was said, of a solemn indigestion. The house where at last a few days later, as soon as the relatives of the Pisan neighbor left, I went to live, had been built by him, and was, it can be said, the only civil house in the town. He had made it near the old church of the Madonna degli Angeli and now that the church had collapsed into the ravine, the house had found itself to be the last on the edge of the precipice. It consisted of three rooms, one in a row to the other. From the street, a side alley on the right of the main street, you entered the kitchen, from the kitchen into the second bedroom, where I put the bed and from here you passed to a large room, with five windows, which was my living room and my painting studio. Four stone steps led down from the study door to a small garden, closed at the end by an iron gate with a fig tree in the middle. The bedroom gave onto a small balcony, from which a ladder ascended, on the side of the house, to the terrace that covered it all: from here the view swept over the most distant horizons. The house was modest, cheaply built, and not beautiful, because it had no character, it was neither stately nor peasant, it had neither the ruined nobility of the palace, nor the misery of the hovels, but only mediocrity. stale of the pretense taste. The studio and the terrace had a colored checkered floor, as in certain country sacristies: I have never loved these geometries, on which the eye rests constantly and which annoys me when I paint. The cheap tiles faded when wet, and Barone, who loved to roll around on the ground madly, became a pink dog then, as white as he was. But the walls were clean, whitewashed, the doors painted blue, the shutters green. And above all, to compensate for any defect, the epicurean spirit of the deceased priest had endowed my house with a priceless asset. There was a toilet, without water of course, but a real toilet, with a porcelain seat. It was the only one in Gagliano, and probably no one would have been found more than a hundred kilometers around.In the houses of the lords there are still some ancient monumental seats of inlaid wood, small thrones full of authority: and they told me, but I have not seen any, that there are also matrimonial ones, two-seater, for those spouses. affectionate who cannot tolerate the briefest separation. In the homes of the poor, of course, there is nothing. This fact gives rise to some curious customs. In Grassano, at certain almost fixed hours, early in the morning and towards evening, the windows of the houses were furtively opened, and the wrinkled hands of the old women appeared from the crack, letting the contents of the vases rain in the middle of the road. It was the time of the "jetting". In Gagliano this ceremony was neither so general nor so regulated: manure was not so lavishly wasted for the gardens.

The lack of that simple device, absolute in the whole region, naturally creates habits that are not easily eradicated, that recall a thousand other things in life, and are accompanied by feelings considered very noble and poetic. The carpenter Lasala, an intelligent "American", who had been, many years earlier, the mayor of Grassano, and which he jealously kept, in his monumental radio set brought from there, with the records of Caruso and the arrival of De Pinedo , those of Matteotti's commemorative speeches, told me that, after the week of work in New York, he used to meet a group of fellow villagers, every Sunday, for a picnic. - We were always eight or ten: there was a doctor, a pharmacist, merchants, a hotel waiter, and a few craftsmen. All of our country, we knew each other since childhood. Life is sad, among those skyscrapers, with all those extraordinary comforts, and the elevators, the revolving doors, the subway, and always houses and buildings and streets, and never a bit of land. Melancholy comes. On Sunday morning you got on the train, but you had to do some kilometers to find the countryside! When we got to some lonely place, we all became happy as if a weight had been lifted off us. And then, under a tree, all together, we dropped our pants. What a delight! You could feel the fresh air, the nature. Not like in those American toilets, shiny and all the same. We seemed to be boys, to have returned to Grassano, we were happy, we laughed, we felt the air of the Fatherland. And when we had finished, we all shouted together: "Long live Italy!". It came right from the heart.

The new house had the advantage of being at the end of the village, out of the constant gazes of the mayor and his acolytes: I could finally walk without bumping into the usual people at every step, with the usual speeches. Here it is customary for gentlemen, when they meet someone on the street, not to ask him how he is, but to ask him this question as a greeting: - Well! What did you eat today? - If the interlocutor is a farmer, he will answer in silence with the gesture of the hand, brought to the level of the face and slowly swinging on itself with the thumb and the little finger stretched and the other fingers bent, which means В nothingВ ». If he is a gentleman, he will dwell on listing the poor dishes of his dinner, and will inquire about those of his friend: if no passion of hatred and of local intrigue at that moment ignites their souls, the conversation will continue for a while without get out of this exchange of gastronomic confidences.

I could have put my head out of the door without immediately banging my nose against the omnipresent belly, enormous to the point of obstructing the whole street, of Don Gennaro, guard, town clerk, dog catcher, and spy for the mayor, always attentive to every step of the confined and at every word of the peasants a good man, perhaps, after all, but devoted to authority and to Don Luigino, and obstinate in enforcing his bizarre decrees on the circulation of pigs and dogs, and in threatening and affixing fines, in order to the most far-fetched reasons, to the women who did not have the money to pay them. And above all it was a home, a place where I could be alone and work. So I hastened to say goodbye to the widow, and to begin my new life, in my final residence. The house belonged to the priest's heir, Don Rocco Macioppi, a modest middle-aged owner, kind, ceremonious, ecclesiastical and bespectacled, and to his niece, Donna Maria Maddalena, a spinster of about twenty-five, of a washed-out blond, raised by the nuns of Potenza, anemic, sighing and lymphatic. It was understood that they would keep the use of the vegetable garden, which they would enter through the gate, in order to cultivate the salad: but I could walk there at my pleasure. The apartment was almost empty: the owner and his lame friend provided me with the necessary furnishings. I brought us the things that I had sent to me in those days: my large easel and the armchair, its necessary complement: one to paint and the other to look at the paintings as I make them: they are both indispensable, and I am fond of them: they have always followed me in all my travels here and there around the world. And a case of books, which had reached me then, and for which I had to receive a special visit from the mayor and the sergeant. Don Luigino sent me to say that he had to attend its opening, to check that there were no forbidden books, and, with the assistance of his secular arm, he examined my volumes one by one. He did it, of course, as a man of studies, who is not surprised at anything with many knowing smiles, happy with his wisdom and authority. There were no forbidden books. But there was, for example, a common edition of Montaigne's Essais. - This is French, isn't it? exclaimed the mayor, winking, as if to say I was not trying to deceive him. - But he is an old Frenchman, Don Luigi! "Yes, Montaigne, one of those of the French Revolution." I struggled to convince him that he could not be considered a dangerous author: the teacher knew his business and smiled pleased, because I meant that if he left me the book, which he should have kidnapped me, it was for an act of particular benevolence and solidarity between men of culture.

The house was in order, the stuff was all right, and now I had to solve the problem of finding a woman to clean me up, to fetch me water from the fountain and prepare my food. The master, the goat killer, Donna Caterina and her nieces agreed: "There's only one that's right for you." Can't take that one! And Donna Caterina said to me: "I'll talk to you and make her come." He will listen to me and will not say no -. The problem was more difficult than I thought: and not because there were no women in Gagliano, who in fact, dozens of them would have been competing for that job and that income. But I lived alone, I had no wife or mother or sister with me and no woman could therefore enter my house alone. This was prevented by custom, very ancient and absolute, which is the foundation of the relationship between the sexes. Love, or sexual attraction, is considered by the peasants to be a force of nature, very powerful, and such that no will is able to oppose it. If a man and a woman are together in shelter and without witnesses, nothing can prevent them from embracing: no contrary intentions, no chastity, no other difficulty can forbid it and if by chance they actually do not, However, it is as if they did: being together is making love. The omnipotence of this god is such, and so simple is the natural impulse, that there can be no true sexual morality, nor even true social disapproval of illicit loves. There are very many single mothers, and they are by no means banned or pointed to public contempt: at most they will find it more difficult to marry in the village, and will have to marry in the surrounding villages, or settle for a slightly lame husband. or with some other bodily defect. If, however, there cannot be a moral brake against the free violence of desire, custom intervenes to make the occasion difficult. No woman can associate with a man except in the presence of others, especially if the man has no wife: and the prohibition is very strict: breaking it even in the most innocent way is equivalent to having sinned. The rule applies to all women, because love knows no age.

I had looked after a grandmother, a seventy-five year old peasant woman, Maria Rosano, with clear blue eyes in her face full of kindness. He had heart disease, with severe and worrying symptoms, and he felt very ill. - I won't get up from this bed again, doctor. My time has come, 'he told me. But I, who felt helped by luck, assured her otherwise. One day, to encourage her, I told her: - You will recover, be sure. From this bed you will get off, without help. In a month you will be well, and you will come alone, up to my house, at the end of the village, to greet me. The old woman really recovered her health, and after a month I heard a knock on my door. It was Maria, who had remembered my words, and came to thank me and bless me, with her arms full of gifts, dried figs, and salami, and sweet cakes made with her hands. She was a very nice woman, full of common sense and maternal tenderness, wise in speaking and with a certain patient and understanding optimism in her ancient wrinkled face. I thanked her for her gifts and kept her talking but I realized that the peasant woman was becoming more and more uncomfortable, standing now on one foot, now on the other, and glanced at the door as if she wanted to escape and didn't dare. At first I did not understand the reason: then I realized that the old woman had come in alone, unlike all the other women who came to be examined or called me, and who always came in two or at least accompanied by a child, who It is a way of respecting the custom and reducing it together to little more than a symbol and I suspected that this was the reason for his disquiet. She herself confirmed it. She considered me her benefactor, her miraculous savior: she would have thrown herself into the fire for me: I had not only healed her, who had one foot in the grave, but also her favorite granddaughter, sick with bad pneumonia. I told her to come and see me alone, when she was fine. I meant that she would need no one to give her the arm: but the good old woman had taken it literally, and dared not break my order. So she hadn't been accompanied, she had really made a great sacrifice for me, and now she was restless because being with me, despite her obvious innocence, was still in itself a great breach of custom. I laughed, and she laughed too, but she told me that the use was older than her and me, and she went away happy. There is no habit or rule or law that resists a contrary need or a powerful desire: and even this use is practically reduced to a formality: but the formality is respected. However, the countryside is great, the cases of life many, and there is no shortage of old escort girls or complacent young women. The women, closed in veils, are like wild animals. They only think of physical love, with extreme naturalness, and speak of it with a freedom and simplicity of language that amazes. When you walk down the street, they look at you with black scrutinizing eyes, bent obliquely to weigh your manhood, and then you hear them, behind your back, murmuring their judgments and the praises of your hidden beauty. If you turn around, they hide their faces in their hands and look at you through their fingers. No feeling is accompanied by this atmosphere of desire, which comes out of the eyes and seems to fill the air of the country, except perhaps that of subjection to a destiny, to a superior power, which cannot be evaded. Love is also accompanied, more than by enthusiasm or hope, by a sort of resignation. If the opportunity is fleeting, it must not be allowed to vanish: the understandings are quick and without words. What is told, and which I myself believed to be true, of the ferocious severity of customs, of the Turkish jealousy, of the savage sense of family honor that leads to crimes and revenge, is nothing but legend, down here. Perhaps it was a reality not too far away, and a residue of it remains in the rigidity of formalisms. But emigration has changed everything. Men are missing and the country belongs to women. Most brides have husbands in America. That one writes the first year, he writes again the second, then nothing is known about it, maybe he has another family there, of course he disappears forever and never comes back. His wife waits for him in the first year, waits for him in the second, then an opportunity presents itself and a baby is born. Most children are illegitimate: the authority of the mothers is sovereign. Gagliano has twelve hundred inhabitants, in America there are two thousand Gaglianesi. Grassano has five thousand and an almost equal number of Grassano people are in the United States. In the village there are many more women than men: who the fathers are can no longer be of such jealous importance: the feeling of honor is separated from that of paternity: the regime is matriarchal. In the hours of the day, when the peasants are far away, the country is abandoned to the women, these queen-birds, who reign over the teeming crowd of children. Babies are loved, adored, pampered by mothers, who are anxious about their ills, who breastfeed them for years and years, do not leave them for a minute, carry them with them, on their backs and arms, wrapped in black shawls, while , standing with the amphora on their heads, they come from the fountain. Many die, the others grow up precocious, then get malaria, turn yellow and melancholy, and become men, and go to war, or to America, or stay in the country bending their backs, like beasts, under the sun, every day of the year.

If illegitimate children are not a real shame for women, much less are they, of course, for men. The priests almost all have children, and no one finds that this brings disgrace to their priesthood. If God does not take them back, as children, they have them raised in the schools of Potenza or Melfi. The postman from Grassano, a sprightly old man, a little limp, with a nice upturned mustache, was famous and honored in the village, because he was said to have, like Priam, fifty children. Of these, twenty-two or twenty-three were the children of his two or three wives, the others, scattered throughout the country and the neighboring lands, and perhaps in part legendary, were attributed to him, but he did not care, and many did not knew existence. They called him 'u King, I don't know if because of the royalty of his virile power, or because of the monarchical mustache: and his sons were called, in the village, the Princes. The prevailing matriarchal relationship, the natural and animalistic way of love, the imbalance due to emigration must nevertheless deal with the residual sense of family, with the very strong feeling of consanguinity, and with the ancient customs, which tend to prevent contact of the men and women. Only those women who were, in some way, exempted from following the common rule could have entered my house, those who had had many children of uncertain fathers, who without being able to be called prostitutes (because this profession does not exists in the village), nevertheless showed a certain freedom of morals, and devoted themselves together to the things of love and magical practices to procure it: the witches.

There were at least twenty such women in Gagliano: but, Donna Caterina told me, some were too dirty and untidy, others unable to keep the house civilly, others had to look after some land of their own, others already served in the house of the gentlemen of the place. - Only one is really for her: she is clean, she is honest, she knows how to cook, and besides, the house where she goes to live is a bit like hers. He lived there for many years with the good soul priest, until his death -. So I decided to look for her: she agreed to come to me, and made her entrance into my new house. Giulia Venere, known as Giulia la Santarcangelese, because she was born in that white village, beyond the Agri, was forty-one, and had had, between normal births and abortions, seventeen pregnancies, from fifteen different fathers. She had her first child with her husband, at the time of the great war: then the man had left for America, taking the child with him, and had disappeared on that continent, without ever giving any news of himself. . The other children had come later: two twins, born before the term, belonged to the priest. Most of these children had died when young: I never saw anyone other than a twelve-year-old girl, who worked in a nearby village with a family of shepherds and came every now and then to visit her mother: a kind of small wild goat, black of eyes and skin, with black hair tousled and sloping over her face, which stood in a hateful and distrustful silence, and did not answer questions, ready to flee as soon as she felt looked at and the last born, Nino, two years old, a fat, robust child whom Giulia always carried with her under her shawl, and whose father I never knew.

Giulia was a tall and curvy woman, with a thin waist like that of an amphora, between her strong chest and hips. He must have had, in his youth, a kind of barbaric and solemn beauty. The face was now wrinkled with the years and yellow with malaria, but the signs of ancient venustia remained in its severe structure, as in the walls of a classical temple, which has lost the marbles that adorned it, but retains its shape intact. and proportions. On the great imposing body, upright, exhaling an animalistic force, rose, covered by the veil, a small head, with an elongated oval.The forehead was high and straight, half covered by a lock of very smooth, greasy black hair, the almond-shaped eyes, black and opaque, had white tinged with blue and brown, like those of dogs. The nose was long and thin, a little arched, the wide mouth, with thin pale lips, with a bitter crease, opened, for a bad laugh to show two rows of very white teeth, powerful like those of a wolf. This face had a very strong archaic character, not in the sense of the classical Greek, nor of the Roman, but of a more mysterious and cruel antiquity, always grown on the same earth, without relationships and mystique with men, but tied to the clod and the eternal animal gods. There was a cold sensuality, a dark irony, a natural cruelty, an impenetrable arrogance and a passivity full of power, bound together in an expression that was both severe, intelligent and evil. In the swaying of the veils and of the wide short skirt, in the long sturdy legs like tree trunks, that great body moved with slow, balanced gestures, full of harmonic strength, and carried, steep and proud, on that monumental and maternal, the small, black snake head.

Giulia entered my house willingly, like a queen returning, after an absence, to visit one of her favorite provinces. She had been there for many years, she had had children there, she had reigned over the kitchen and over the priest's bed, who had given her those gold rings that hung from her ears. He knew all its secrets, the chimney that pulled badly, the window that didn't close, the nails driven into the walls. At that time the house was full of furniture, provisions, bottles, preserves and all the good things. Now it was empty, there was only a bed, a few chairs, a kitchen table. There was no stove: the food had to be cooked over the fireplace. But Giulia knew where to get the necessary, where to find wood and coal, from whom to borrow a barrel for water, waiting for some traveling merchant to come and sell some in the village. Giulia knew everyone and knew everything: the houses of Gagliano had no secrets for her, and the facts of each one, and the most intimate details of the life of every woman and every man, and their most hidden feelings and motives. She was a very ancient woman, as if she had been hundreds of years old, and therefore nothing could be concealed from her. cold passive awareness, where life was mirrored without mercy and without moral judgment: neither pity nor blame ever appeared in his ambiguous smile. He was, like beasts, a spirit of the earth was not afraid of time, nor of fatigue, nor of men. She knew how to carry effortlessly, like all the women here, who, instead of men, do the hard work, the heaviest weights. He went to the fountain with the thirty-liter barrel, and brought it back full on his head, without holding it with his hands, busy holding the child, climbing up the stones of the steep road with the diabolical balance of a goat. He made the fire in the peasant manner, which uses little wood, with the logs lit from one end, and approached as they are consumed. On that fire he cooked, with the scarce resources of the country, tasty dishes. The heads of the goats he prepared for reganate, in an earthenware pot, with the embers under and over the lid, after having soaked the brains with an egg and fragrant herbs. He made gnemurielli from the guts, rolling them like balls of thread around a piece of liver or fat and a bay leaf, and putting them to roast over the flame, strung on a skewer: the smell of burnt meat and the gray smoke they spread through the house and the street, heralds of a barbaric delight. In the most mysterious kitchen of the filters, Giulia was a teacher: the girls turned to her for advice to prepare their amorous concoctions. He knew herbs and the power of magical items. He knew how to cure diseases with spells, and he could even kill whoever he wanted, with the virtue of terrible formulas alone.

Giulia had her own house, not far from mine, further down, towards the Timbone of the Madonna degli Angeli. He slept there at night with his latest lover, the barber, an albino young man with rabbit red eyes. He knocked at my door early in the morning, with his baby, went to get water, prepared the fire and lunch, and left in the afternoon: in the evening I had to cook dinner by myself. Giulia went, came, reappeared as she pleased: but she did not have the airs of a mistress of the house. She immediately understood that the times weren't what they used to be, and that I was a far cry from her old priest: perhaps more mysterious to her than she could have been to me. She supposed me great power, and she was content with that, in her passivity. Cold, impassive and animalistic, the peasant witch was a faithful servant.

Thus ended the first period of my stay in Gaglianese, spent in Gagliano di Sopra, in the widow's house. Content with the new solitude, I lay on my terrace, and watched the shadow of the clouds move over the distant ridges, like a ship on the sea. I could hear, from the rooms below, the sound of Giulia's footsteps and the barking of the dog. These two strange beings, the witch and Baron, were, ever since, the usual companions of my life.

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Hygiene of yesteryear

De Balneis Puteolanis, Pietro da Eboli (13th century)

A thousand years, dark and dirty, very dirty, so dark and dirty that you can't get any blacker. This is how we imagine the Middle Ages: a Middle Ages that if it were not dirty and wild it would hardly seem Middle Ages. And yet another of the clichés to break down about the Middle Ages concerns personal hygiene.

Because medieval men were much cleaner than we think. Certainly much more than those that would have come later, incredibly cleaner than those of the Renaissance and the Enlightenment, but also of our nineteenth-century grandparents.

In fact, it will take the twentieth century - with infinitely more advanced technology and water availability - to wrest the primacy of the most “hygienic” era in history from the Middle Ages.

It is no coincidence that it was the Middle Ages that invented soap, and if in the palace of Versailles it happened to take a single bath in a lifetime - perhaps on the occasion of an illness - and the Sun King only cleansed his face with a soaked handkerchief of perfume, in the most mistreated thousand years in history we also washed every day. Who could afford it, of course. In fact, the abandonment of the Roman aqueducts and the closure of the baths had not canceled the love for restorative immersion in water from the aristocratic homes.

Obviously the bathroom, at the time, had nothing to do with the toilet: hot water with rose petals and perfumed essences was brought into the bedroom and a large tub equipped with a stool and a sort of toilet was filled. table, so that you could stay comfortably soaking while having breakfast or working and there are also mats to put on the bottom of the tank to protect yourself from any wood chips.

The bathroom is of great importance from a hygienic point of view, moreover, also due to the habit of rarely changing personal linen, which was removed only at night to get into bed naked.

In many castles, near the kitchens, there were rooms with heated water reserved for bridesmaids who loved to spend time socializing and soaking and the European nobility often entertained their guests with baths that could become an opportunity to impress friends and rivals with the exhibition of the most unbridled luxury.

On the other hand, in the novels of chivalry it is good practice to offer a warm bath to the guest who arrives tired and dusty while one of the duties of the wives is to give refreshment to the husband who arrives home after a day of hard work with water. , possibly hot, and change of clothes.

And these are not characteristic habits only of the late Middle Ages, the one usually considered more "civilized": Eginardo says that Charlemagne loved baths and that he invited not only his children to bathe with him, but also nobles and friends and occasionally also a crowd of servants and guards, so that sometimes up to a hundred men could find themselves bathing with the king.

Around the middle of the 12th century in Italy, in Christian Spain, in England and in Germany, public spas arose around what are defined as "vasconi" while the Crusaders imported saunas to Europe, which were then called "stoves". that in 1292 Paris - with a population of 70,000 inhabitants - had 26 spas, Bruges 40 and Brussels 30 like Baden Baden in Germany. In Italy, the public baths of Ravenna, Pavia, Lucca, Gaeta and Naples have been known and renowned since the eighth century, while those of Pisa, Florence, Rome, Palermo and Salerno are famous in the late Middle Ages. Those close to the Hagia Sophia Monastery are so luxurious that they even attract monks and nuns from nearby abbeys.

Under Henry II every morning on the streets of London the newsboys announce the opening of the toilets shouting: "Gentlemen that you go to bathe, to take a hot bath, without delay, the baths are hot, there is no deception!" . The advertising of the bathrooms becomes so intrusive that they force the authorities to issue regulations which, in order to let people sleep in peace, require "not to make the stoves scream" until the sun has risen. Prices are accessible and variable depending on the service and a sort of doctor-barbers oversee the proper functioning of the establishment and the maintenance of hygiene standards: the sick, for example, are not allowed to bathe in the same places as the healthy ones.

Although they are also habitually frequented by nuns and priests, the Church looks at public baths with increasing distrust, deeming them a risk to chastity. In reality, at least at first, these are unjustified criticisms on the other hand in the Middle Ages the conception of modesty is very different: a recurring scene in chivalric novels is that which sees girls, often the daughters of the noble host himself, undress the knight exhausted by the tournament or an exhausted traveler, and bathe him with their hands without any malice. Another recurring topos in literature is that of a husband so jealous that he even sends his servants away when his wife takes a bath: a behavior considered ridiculous, and which the novellas almost always see punished. It is also true that at first the bathrooms are frequented by men and women on different days or in separate compartments.

Over time, however, things change: in Corbaccio, written by Giovanni Boccaccio in 1365, we read that one would be surprised if he knew "how many and what solemnities" on the part of the woman "were used in going to the stoves and how often" and of Erfurt in Germany, in the thirteenth century it is said: “The baths of that city will be very pleasant for you. If you need to wash and love comfort, you can enter it with confidence. You will be received kindly. A pretty girl will honestly massage you with her sweet hand. An experienced barber will shave you without letting the slightest drop of sweat fall on your face. Tired of the bathroom, you will find bed to rest. Then a pretty woman, who will not displease you, with a virginal air will arrange your hair with a skilful comb. Who wouldn't steal kisses from her if he feels like it and she doesn't refuse? A fee is also asked of you, a simple money will suffice… ". These are certainly not isolated cases: the bathrooms are gradually transformed into rooms for parties and banquets, cheered by players and easy women and characterized by "a singular license in the face of the common laws of morality", where "we showed ourselves naked and love was made with complete freedom ”.

However, it was not public morality that decreed its end but the Black Plague of 1348: there was in fact the belief that the disease could enter more easily through the pores dilated by the heat, and certainly crowded places became the privileged ground for its spread. of the epidemic.

During the fifteenth century, therefore, the thermal baths ceased to be a public meeting place and became a synonym for brothel, in which the bath or sauna ended up being only accessory services to sexual performance.

The end of the spa is certainly a bad blow to public hygiene, since not everyone can afford a bathroom at home. It should be emphasized, however, that the use of water for washing is not the only form of hygiene in use in the Middle Ages.

Even the open sewers that we imagine in the alleys of medieval cities, for example, are a false historical: the sewer network was in fact well present in the thirteenth century, and even where there were no sewers, the use was still common. of wood ash to decompose organic waste.

Some cities such as Marseille were equipped with rules on street hygiene and the obligation to sweep in front of one's home or shop was a commitment that no one shunned. There is also no lack of personal hygiene manuals that somehow anticipate the Etiquette, where it is advisable not to wipe the eyes or nose with the flap of the tablecloth, while the text Ménagier de Paris - written towards the end of the fourteenth century by a bourgeois for his very young wife - offers a variant of the finger rinse to put at the table: boil the sage and add, once the water has been drained and cooled, orange peel, rosemary or laurel.

Obviously the condition of the poor, as in every age, is very different. The house of a peasant family consists of a ground floor building divided in half: on one side there are the animals and on the other the whole family who lives in a single large room that serves as a bedroom and kitchen. In one corner there is the hearth which in many cases does not even have a fireplace and therefore everything is blackened by the smoke. The floor is in beaten earth and the toilet consists of a wooden cage with a hole in the center, placed outside in the courtyard (as still happens in some Romanian peasant houses).

In castles, as later in palaces and convents, water is drawn from a well, located in the courtyard. In cities, some homes have cesspools that are periodically subjected to laborious cleaning operations, but generally the elimination of household waste and sewage from public and private latrines is entrusted to a water course. In fact, rivers are used as a source of water supply and as a vehicle for disposal: in their waters clothes and linen are washed, garbage, animal carrion, sewage from leather tanneries and dry cleaners are discharged, and this is the reason frequent epidemics.

In London, the pollution of the Thames leads very early to prepare for the uses of the royal court some works of channeling the adduction waters, captured from distant sources, allowing citizens to use the surplus. The hygienic primacy of the English capital will have to endure over the centuries, if still in 1756 a visitor will affirm with admiration: "There is no major street in London that is not supplied with water in such abundance that it can serve even the upper floors with the common aqueduct. houses".

Even the abbeys had places dedicated to bathing, shaving and physiological needs, which were accessed according to a schedule set by shifts. Generally, the hygienic practices in the monastery included daily washing in common at the fountain. On Saturday, in order to prepare to sanctify Sunday in a worthy way, they could proceed to the complete cleansing of the body, always with cold water. On this same day they changed the clothes in which they went to bed every night of the week.

Medieval razors (photo: www.mondimedievali.net)

In the English monasteries of the eleventh century, some simple rules of personal hygiene were introduced, entrusted to the care and responsibility of the almsgiver. The latter provided for the heating of the room for the periodic bath of the monks and the supply of water, poured into robust oak or walnut tubs the hygienic ritual, which took place no more than four times a year, was completed by tonsure every three weeks and from washing feet on Saturdays.

The friar in charge of the refectory was instead entrusted with the maintenance of the lavatorium, a sink used before and after each meal and sized for everyone's contemporary needs. The distribution of the toilets also met specific functional requirements: behind the dormitory, and connected to it by a bridge, the latrine building was generally located, equipped with numerous side-by-side seats. The individual places, duly ventilated and separated by small walls more for climatic reasons than for reasons of confidentiality, discharged directly into a watercourse, sometimes purposely diverted for the purpose.

The Tacuinum Sanitatis of Bevagna, medical handbook of the century. XIV

Starting from the 11th century, collections of verse precepts to preserve health and live longer have also spread, such as the Tacuina sanitatis, whose text is attributed to the Arab doctor Ibn Botlan, and the Regimen Sanitatis Salernitanum, a collective work of the medical school Salerno who in prescription II, entitled De confortatione cerebri (for the well-being of the brain), recommends washing hands and eyes in the morning with fresh and pure water, combing and "cleaning" the teeth.Prescription XXIII, De lotione manuum (washing hands), recommends washing hands after eating, obtaining the double benefit of cleansing them and, by wiping the eyes with them, making the eyesight more acute. Bartolomeo Sacchi, known as Platina (1421-1481), in his book De honesta voluptate et valetudine gives some advice on “What should be done as soon as you get up”. First of all, “it is advisable to let a certain interval pass and then comb your hair well and get rid of the phlegm that has accumulated during the night. It is also good to wash your feet and head before starting to eat and carefully wipe the body waste that comes out of the rear parts. It is a good idea to rinse your mouth with plenty of water, especially in summer ".

Soap was invented in the Middle Ages to help personal hygiene. One of the first detailed recipes is found in a collection of secret formulas for artisans dating back to the 12th century. The chemical process with which it is produced has remained substantially unchanged over time: oils and fats of various kinds are boiled with a solution of caustic alkali producing a reaction from which raw soap is obtained. Obviously the quality depends on the materials used: initially mutton fat, wood ash and natural soda were used to which aromatic herbs were sometimes added, while a solution of lye and clay earth was used for the laundry. Tallow, animal fat obtained from cattle and sheep, was at the time the main ingredient of both soap and candles, so the artisans called candelai often made and sold both products. The addition of salt at the end of boiling then made it possible to obtain solid bars, easily transportable.

The smell, however, did not have to be exactly the maximum pleasantness, if many refuse to use soap to wash themselves, starting with Emperor Otto I, of whom his brother Bruno tells: "When he bathed, he did not use never soap or similar preparation to make his skin shiny, which is even more surprising as he was aware of this method of cleaning and of great comfort from a young age ”.

Things change when in Italy, Spain and France fat is replaced with olive oil boiled with ash, and sometimes with sodium carbonate and cedar. The final product is then flavored with lavender, winter cumin and caraway, thus becoming a much more pleasant product. Certainly not enough to make the German inns, whose hygiene Erasmus of Rotterdam complains for a long time, more welcoming and fragrant.

Born in the Middle Ages (in 1466) but died in the Renaissance (1536), Erasmus in one of his Colloquia familiaria, entitled "Locande", which appeared in Basel in 1523, recounts that in the dining room of a German inn many men and women of 'all ages sit next to each other, both commoners, rich and noble and all meet their needs in the presence of others, such as taking off their boots and putting on slippers, changing their shirts, hanging out their rain-soaked clothes near the stove , straightening hair, wiping sweat, cleaning shoes. The place is overheated, everyone sweats, shouts, pushes, the smells are disgusting, due to the burps that smell of garlic, the windiness of the belly and the stench of the breath. For those who want to wash their hands, water is ready, "but it is usually so clean that after using it you have to ask for more to cleanse yourself from the first ablution". Promiscuity is remarkable and the dangers great: "Most certainly have Spanish sickness or, as others say, Gallic disease, since it is common to several nations and they represent a danger no less than that of lepers". After the description of the food, drinks and service (tablecloths "that look like hemp sails detached from the mast of some ship"), we refer to the bedrooms, where there is "a bed and nothing else you can use" . What about cleaning? “The same as at the table. Sheets, for example, go to the laundry once every six months ”.

On the other hand, we have already come out of the Middle Ages: those in which hygiene was taken care of were now other times.


COSMETICS (from the Gr. Κοσμέω "orno"). - They include all the preparations used to treat the body (face, hands, hair, nails), to maintain and highlight its beauty, or to provide those who use them with artificial beauty.

Orient . - The use of cosmetics is widespread among almost all peoples of the ancient oriental civilizations, favored by the fact that in the East most of the vegetable and mineral ingredients used for toilet purposes, such as oils, perfumes, dyes, from natural love of pomp and body care, typical of these civilizations, and partly also for hygienic reasons, as is the case of oil anointing on the skin in hot countries, to avoid excessive perspiration. The fabulous "scents of Arabia", that is from Happy Arabia (Yemen) and eastern Palestine, which the caravans transported to the coast of Syria, antimony, perfumed oil, ointments, before spreading into Greek civilization -Roman coming into contact with the East, they were already in great favor among the Egyptians, the Medes (the anecdote of the young Ciro in the presence of his grandfather Astiage, double-layer and full of make-up is known), Phoenicians, Jews. For the latter, the Bible abounds with allusions and testimonies about the use of anointing and perfuming oneself, especially from the time of Solomon onwards (just remember the song of the Songs) and the well-known Gospel episodes of the sinner and Mary Magdalene sprinkling with oil perfumed and nard the feet and the head of Jesus document a use already for that period influenced by Greek-Roman customs, but intimately connected with the ancient oriental predilection for cosmetics.

Classical Antiquity. - The use of cosmetics, penetrated from the East into Greece and from there into the Roman world, appears to us to be very widespread among the peoples of classical antiquity and responding to various needs of the male and female toilet.

Since the use of soap as a detergent was unknown (sapo is a hair dye), the ancients used soda (nitrum), or very fine clay, or even bean curd (lomentum) for this purpose. ladies and elegant young men washed themselves with donkey milk which had the property, they said, of making the skin white and soft. Pliny tells (XI, 238) that Poppea when he was traveling was accompanied by 500 donkeys. The use of the ointment derives from the custom, which dates back to ancient times, to smear the body with olive oil after a bath. It was believed that such anointing was beneficial to health and preserved from colds (Plin., XV, 4). Homeric heroes and their women also anointed themselves with oil after bathing. From the use of correcting the odor of the oil with essences, the many species of ointments that are remembered derived: rose, jasmine, nard, precious Arabian perfume, etc. These ointments were used in profusion during the massage that was practiced after the bath and during the banquets the diners would perfume their heads and hair without sparing. There were two types on the market: liquid (olea) and solid (odores). As with us, women and men also used hair dyes to hide their gray hair in Rome, then, brown women who had the desire to pass for blondes achieved this by using certain soaps (sapo, spuma Batava, pilae mattiacae) which gave the hair a beautiful bright red color. Depilatory pastes (psilothrum, dropax) based on oil, pitch, resin and caustic substances, were used to free the hair and make the skin smooth. The generic name of splenia meant by the Romans the applications of a pink paste that was spread on the skin to hide burns and abrasions. Even slaves who had become free and rich, if they had to hide a slander imprinted on their foreheads, resorted to splenia. The refined, then, made them into artificial nevi, which in the imperial age was all the rage. Among the female make-ups, there were various types and colors: black (fuligo, καλλιβλέϕαρον or στίμμι "antimony") with which the eyelashes and eyebrows were highlighted and the lipstick lines were extended to color the skin (fucus, purpurissum). But the most used type of rouge was the cerussa (lat.cerussa gr. Ψιμυϑιον) which gave freshness and youthful whiteness to the cheeks of women and consisted of a cream based on white lead (lead carbonate, obtained by means of lead acetate ).

White lead for toilet use was on the market in the form of tablets that came from the centers where the lead industry flourished. Very famous was the cerussa of Rhodes. The tablets were obtained by dissolving the lead scraping in the vinegar: thus a pulp was formed which was dried and then pounded, sieved and refined, until it was ready for use (Plin., XXXIV, 175-76). With those tablets, ointments were then formed by mixing the powder with honey. A flesh color could also be obtained by adding red to the white lead, like nitro foam (Ov., Med. Fac., V. 70 ff.). It was known that lead carbonate was very poisonous but it was not believed that it could harm by penetrating through the skin so it was not, as it is today, prohibited by law in the manufacture of cosmetics.

The cerussa was considered so effective a means of beauty that in the gallant world not even young and beautiful women did without it (Plaut., Most., Vv. 257-58), and its use was considered normal in the female dressing table, especially for the Greeks, who nevertheless had to refrain from smearing their faces under certain circumstances, such as when they were in mourning (Lys., For the killing of Eratost., par. 14) or when they participated in the mysteries of Demeter ( Dittenberger, Syll., 3rd ed., 736, l. 23).

Bibl.: Becker-Göll, Charicles, Berlin 1877-78, I, p. 261 ff., III, pp. 98, 307 Gallus, Berlin 1880-82, III, p. 157 ff. M. Blümner, Technol. u. Terminol., Leipzig 1912, I, p. 352 Hermann-Blümner, Lehrbuch der griechischen Privataltertümer, Freiburg-Tübingen 1882, p. 200 ff. id., Die römische Privataltertümer, Munich 1911, p. 435 ff. Stampini, Ovid master and poet of female clothing, Turin 1914, p. 30 ff. v. also Daremberg and Saglio, Dictionn. d. antiq., s. v. Lomentum, pila, psilothrum, pyxis, sapo, seplasiarius, unguentum and Paoli, Lar familiaris, Florence 1930, pp. 217 ff.

Middle Ages and Modern Age. - The crudest mores of the Middle Ages do not ignore cosmetics, the use of which, condemned from the beginning by Christian writers (see, very interesting for the details it provides, Tertullian's De cultu feminarum), was not unknown to them barbarians, if we know, p. eg, that Saxon women used to wear lipstick and that Burgundians polished their hair with an ointment of sour butter. Later life at court and the importance given in the world of chivalry to the exteriority of the appearance and the attractiveness of the woman extended its use so much that it gave rise to a whole literature, which from religious reprobation to moralizing teaching and satire literary lashes out against this manifestation of female vanity. Sometimes even men were stained with this guilt, although such refinements were severely blamed and not only by ecclesiastical writers.

In Italian literature the subject is dealt with from the very beginning: a lauda by Jacopone da Todi is dedicated to the harmful adornment of women and who does not remember Dante's famous invective against women with "painted faces" (Par., XV, 114 )? Franco Sacchetti (Nov., 136) morals with amused goodness, and with biting irony Corbaccio Boccaccesco describes in detail all the arts of the female toilet and ruthlessly ridicules them.

But alongside the discontented there were those who helped the vanity of women by providing them with advice and recipes: they are on the one hand the treatises of courtly love, which echo Ovid, on the other medical treatises, which hand down Arab wisdom, in which cosmetics are considered with all seriousness as a part of hygiene. The regiment and costumes of a woman by Francesco da Barberino belong to the first group, most abundant in French and Provençal literature. Among the latter are the famous popularization treatise Le régime du corps composed in 1256 by Aldobrandino da Siena, and the treatise De mulierum passionibus attributed to Trotula, the famous female doctor of the Salerno school, actually a compilation of the century. XIII.

The rules don't usually go beyond the face and hair, arms and hands. The greatest care was taken to brown the hair with mineral and vegetable lotions and ointments, and to make the skin smooth and white. Ear, tooth and nail care tools were common to women and men. Nor was there any lack of oddities like black teeth.

The most commonly used materials were antimony or carbon black for the bistro to blacken the eyebrows and eyelashes, red lead and saffron for the lipsticks to color the cheeks and lips, sage for the teeth, white lead, the sublimated d 'silver, borax, alum, alongside almonds and broad beans, lemon, vinegar and egg white for various powders and creams to keep the complexion beautiful. In the formulas, often very complicated, often harmful, there are sometimes strange ingredients, such as onion skin and bee wings, or repulsive, such as animal waste. The women made their own cosmetics, and where they weren't enough, the art of wenches, specialized above all in depilating with glass and shells, and of haberdashery, which sold rarer and more precious "smooth" ones, helped.

The Renaissance, with its opulence of life, with its admiration for bodily beauty, tending to the formation of a conventional type, has cosmetics, like perfumes, a real craze. Italy becomes the center of elegance, and from here fashions and recipes start. Dressing up becomes, more than a taste, a necessity of social life for every class of people. The strangest and most complicated recipes were multiplied, which they tried to keep secret. That (1557) of the pigeon, stuffed with terebentine, lilies, eggs, honey, shells and camphor, to be cooked and distilled in lambicco, then filtered through wadding soaked in musk and amber, is not the strangest. We found systems similar to some very modern ones, such as the nocturnal application of raw meat or astringent masks on the face and the sublimatoir, a device for exposing the face to mercury vapors. The great mania, especially in Venice, however, was that of making the hair golden, with the simple exposure to the sun of the head kept damp by means of sponges, or with various dyes. Men also participated in this fashion. Particularly effeminate in France was the court of Henry III, who dyed and perfumed himself like a woman.

The progress that the 1400s marked in the medical literature gave rise, alongside the profane recipe books, to scientific compilations dedicated to personal hygiene, which did not really go hand in hand with aesthetic treatments.

Anti-makeup literature is scarce in the Renaissance. Sumptuary laws don't mention it. Among the dissidents we are not surprised to find some friar (who does not remember the burning of the vanities of Savonarola?), Or Alberti in Della Famiglia (lib. III), but yes we are surprised to find Aretino and also a Latinist woman , Laura Cereto, who lashes out against those who push shamelessness to the point of dyeing her breasts.

Since the seventeenth century, the center of elegant life has moved, fashions, and with them also those concerning cosmetics, come from France and Spain. The art was brought to France by the famous Italian perfumer Renato, who came with Caterina de 'Medici. At court, dressing up became a necessity for etiquette.

Preceded by that of sprinkling one's hair with fragrant powders that were made to take root with mucilage substances, around 1593 in Paris, as Estoile tells us in his Giornale, the custom of powdering one's head, started as a joke, by some nuns, then triumphant throughout Europe. The use of moles accompanied him, which was pushed to the point of exaggeration, sprinkling face and shoulders with them, with variety of shape and gallant meaning according to the position, precisely following the blame of the preacher Massillon, who only obtained the effect of give his name to that fashion.

The make-up operation required at least an hour and was repeated even in the evening before going to bed. The face was prepared with a little water and with perfumed spirit, almond paste and mutton fat. Then the eyes and eyebrows were marked in black, the veins in blue, another novelty, then on a first layer of white lead the liquid red was spread with a large brush, which existed up to 12 shades, on the face - cheeks, chin, forehead, nostrils, earlobes - on the shoulders and hands in the palm and between fingers. This of red, accentuated after the triumph of powdered hair, which was more candid, became a real madness, even more than in France, in Spain. In Paris, the fashionable perfumer was Mademoiselle Martin, patented by the queen, arbiter of elegance.

In Italy Venice was the elegant center of the time: there more than anywhere else they bought from the "muschieri", pertinent to the art of the merchants, the Cyprus powder that came from Flanders or from the national industry and the expensive cans of France there the cicisbei , no less dressed up than the lady, they offered her the indispensable box with white, red, lip liner and moles. In Turin, on the other hand, a rare case, women did not dress up, if we are to believe the testimony of a French traveler (Lalande, Voyage en Italie, Paris 1769).

There was no lack of satire, but often more aimed at striking outward ridicule than animated by moral concerns.But in some countries there was no joking, as in England, where, although Queen Elizabeth had put into fashion those artifices that Hamlet reproached Ophelia, a decree of Parliament (1770) condemned her as a witch and annulled the marriage of the woman who had achieved with the help of fake hair, high heels, perfumes and make-up. Finally, the great preachers and philosophers set out on a crusade against luxury, which the Revolution was to more effectively and quickly overthrow. The last of the aristocrats got dressed up to climb the gallows. After the whirlwind, fashion resumes with the refined elegance of Madame Tallien first, famous for her strawberry baths, then Giuseppina Bonaparte. Romanticism abolished red: there remained the face powder and creams that gave the sentimental pallor. The moles had a new moment of rowing in imperial Vienna.

Since the end of the last century, the leveling of customs has enormously extended the use of cosmetics. On the other hand, the industry has taken over cosmetics, central Paris, where in 1890 the first beauty institute was founded by Madame Lucas. New systems such as massage or cosmetic surgery, in which the French doctor Noel has specialized, which have recently become common, are now successfully replacing many cosmetics. In less civilized countries there has naturally remained a more backward stage, both in the production of cosmetics and in their application. The use of make-up has been and still is particularly notable in Eastern countries, where certain dyes are also used by men and where women abuse coarse make-up based on ocher and talc, sometimes dyeing their teeth black. with lacquer paint as in Annam, sometimes using it to distinguish girls from married women, who no longer adorn themselves, as in Japan. In Africa the Arabs dye their eyes black with kohl and the palms of their hands and feet reddish with henna, ingredients now common in Europe, imitated by the black women who spend hours and hours in their dressing table with very complicated hairstyles and dye your hands red and your teeth multicolored.

Sources: G. Boccaccio, Il Corbaccio (see also De cas. Vir. Ill., I, 18) S. Prudenzani, Il Sollazzo, edited by S. Debenedetti, new ed., Turin 1922 A. Piccolomini (Lo stordito enthroned), Dialogue of the beautiful creation of women and F. Luigini from Udine, Della bella donna, in Treatises of the '500 on women, edited by G. Zonta, Bari 1913 A. Piemontese (attributed to G. Ruscelli) , De 'secreti to conserve youth and retard old age, etc., Rome 1557 A. Firenzuola, Dialogue of the beauty of women, Florence 1548 Trotula, De mulierum passionibus, in Medici antiqui omnes, Venice 1541. Other recipes of medical cosmetics in A Miola, The vernacular scriptures of the first three centuries of the language, Bologna 1878, I, p. 199, and in P. Giacosa, Magistri Salerno nondum editi, Turin 1901, p. 467. Recipes of the Renaissance in: Gallant cookbook (edited by O. Guerrini), Bologna 1883, p. 17 A. Solerti, Two codes of secrets, Bologna 1894 G.L. Passerini, From a collection to the secrets, in From ancient times to modern times, Milan 1904 G. Marinella, Le medicine, Venice 1574 F. Cortese, I secreti etc., Venice 1545 Table of all simple medicaments etc., Venice 1744 ( compilation, from The speeches of PA Mattioli Sanese) F. da Barberino, Of the regiment and costumes of women, edited by C. Baudi di Vesme, Bologna 1875 L. Landouzy and R. Pépin, "Le régime du corps" du maître Aldebrandin de Sienne, Paris 1911 Experiments by Caterina Sforza, in PD Pasolini, Caterina Sforza, Rome 1893, III, p. 601 ff. M. de Saint-Ursin, L'ami des femmes, Paris 1805 (cosmetic recipes) C. James, Toilette d'une Romaine au temps d'Auguste et cosmétiques d'une Parisienne au XIXe siècle, Paris 1864.

Bibl.: General Treatments: S. Piesse, Des odeurs, des parfums et des cosmétiques (French translation), Paris 1865 J. Quicherat, Histoire du costume en France, Paris 1875 H. Baudrillart, Histoire du luxe, Paris 1878 R Renier, The aesthetic type of women in the Middle Ages, Ancona 1885 I. Guareschi, New chemical encyclopedia, Turin 1900-10 LT Piver, Rapport du jury international de l'exposition universelle de 1900. Parfumerie, Paris 1900 Grosse, Les débuts de dell'arte (French translation), Paris 1902 (for primitives) L. Bourdeau, Histoire de Habillement et de la parure, Paris 1904 A. Franklin, La civilté, l'étiquette, la mode, le bon ton du XIII and au XIX e siècle, Versailles 1908 M. Joseph, Handbuch der Kosmetik, Leipzig 1912 PJ Eichhoff, Praktische Kosmetik für Ärzte und gebildete Laien, 3rd ed., Vienna 1913 P. Gastou, Hygiène du visage. Formulaire cosmétique et esthétique, 2nd ed., Paris 1923 W.A. Poucher, Perfumes, cosmetics and soaps, II, 2nd ed., London 1926 A. Castiglioni, History of medicine, Milan 1927.

For the Middle Ages: L. Gautier, La chevalerie, Paris 1884 A. Schultz, Das höfische Leben zur Zeit der Minnesinger, Leipzig 1889, specialm. I, pp. 3, 211-219 A. Hentsch, De la littérature didactique du Moyen Âge s'adressant spécialement aux femmes, Cahors 1905 H. Finke, Die Frau im Mittelalter, Kempten 1912 A. Parducci, Ornate costumes, Florence 1927.

For the Renaissance and beyond: J. Burckhardt, Die Kultur der Renaissance in Italien, Leipzig 1901 E. Rodocanachi, La femme italienne à l'époque de la Renaissance, Paris 1907, chap. III P. Molmenti, History of Venice in private life, Bergamo 1905-08, II, p. 12 (Renaissance), III, p. 8 ('600 and' 700) F. Malaguzzi-Valeri, The court of Ludovico il Moro, Milan 1913, I.

I ndustria. - Today's industry prepares a large number of products for use as cosmetics. The main among them can be grouped as follows: Cosmetic detergents. - They include: 1. perfumed soaps, in loaves, powders, pastes and solutions (see soap) 2. toothpastes (see toothpaste) 3. lotions, which are toilet waters especially intended for the scalp and which contain in addition to water, glycerin and perfumed alcohol some lotions also contain salts of quinine, pilocarpine, quinosol, petroleum, chamomile extract, nettle extract, etc. the shampooings are solutions of a soft soap with other materials emulsified in very weak alcohol, with the addition of alkaline and scented carbonates as desired 4. bath salts, consisting of alkaline carbonates, soap powders and saponin, scented with lavender, bergamot, rosemary , etc. some contain antiseptic substances such as borate and sodium perborate.

Emollient cosmetics. - They include: 1. creams - emulsions (cold - creams) obtained by emulsifying water with almond oil, whale fat and wax, scented with various essences other preparations contain lanolin, cocoa butter, vaseline and sometimes gelatinous substances to facilitate the emulsion of fatty substances 2 . creams, with a composition similar to the previous ones, but not emulsified, are mostly mixtures of vaseline or lanolin, wax, glycerin, variously scented some types (soapy creams) contain sodium stearate, others (starchy creams) are mixtures of starch and glycerin (starch glycerolate), with little gelose or gelatin, variously scented, sometimes with the addition of zinc oxide and other ingredients 3. toilet milks, virgin milks, rose milks, etc., milky-looking liquids, obtained by emulsifying water and glycerin with benzoin or fatty and waxy substances perfumed to taste.

Fixative cosmetics. - They are those intended to fix the shape of the hair or beard. There are liquids and pasty ones and they can be distinguished into these main types: 1. bandoline, more or less mucilaginous liquids that serve to keep the hair adherent, smooth and shiny, are based on tragacanth, gum arabic, carrageen and mucilage of different seeds with the addition of wax and alcohol, variously perfumed 2. brillantines, liquids essentially composed of an oil and a volatile solvent, mostly based on castor oil and perfumed alcohol to taste, sometimes replacing the castor oil with vaseline oil or with a sulfuricinate then there are solid brillantines, consisting of perfumed and colored vaseline 3. ointments, products with a sebaceous consistency based on tallow, cocoa butter, vaseline and waxes, whale fat , wool fat, variously colored and perfumed are sometimes prepared using the enfleurage products obtained in the extraction of certain perfumes with fats by mixing them with the aforementioned products, adding perfumed dyes and oils and ssential varî, colored with vegetable colors. The harder creams are also called waxes because they contain more wax than the previous ones.

Dyes cosmetics. - These products are used to make the epidermis velvety and to impart a special coloring. They include: 1. Belletti, which can be in powder, paste, modeled in jars or sticks (pencils) or liquids: those in powder are made up of pumice, clay, bismuth magisterium, zinc oxide those in paste are based of paraffin, tallow, ceresin, mixed with bismuth magisterium and, in the past, also with white lead (lead carbonate), now however prohibited by health laws the liquid ones are based on glycerin and aromatic waters, having in suspension the bismuth magisterium . These products are more or less scented with different essential oils and are white, others colored with eosin (pink), carmine or alcanna (red), ultramarine or Berlin blue (blue), ivory black (black), or with various colors. Among the make-ups are the lipstick paste, based on carmine and the blue for the veins, based on Berlin blue or indigo 2. face powders (rice powders, toilet powders), based on different starches, with the addition of talc, zinc oxide, magnesium and zinc stearates, dyed in different colors and scented as desired. Compact powders packaged in elegant cases and obtained by compressing the perfumed and colored powders in special molds are also very popular. Other toilet powders are based on starch, talc, calcium carbonate, magnesia, etc., sometimes dyed. like powders and perfumed with some essences from which they take their name (rose, violet, mimosa powders, etc.) 3. hair dyes, products that are used to restore the primitive color to the hair. There are based on lead salts (very poisonous and prohibited), bismuth salts (not very resistant), cobalt salts, silver salts, etc. There are also many based on pyrogallol, amidophenols, paraphenylenediamine, the latter very dangerous, and others based on sulionated paraminophenylamine which do not seem to give rise to the disturbances found with paraphenylenediamine. In any case, we must be careful in the use of hair dyes and if possible stick to those prepared with vegetable substances (henna, walnut husk). Also noteworthy is the kohl or kohol black dye, different from the ancient Egyptian product, which is nothing but a mixture of India ink with tragacanth, water and flavored alcohol. 4. nail polishes, are used to dye and making the nails shine are products based on elastic collodion (nitrocotton) dissolved in alcohol and ether, variously scented and colored with derivatives from eosin there are also based on celluloid dissolved in acetone. For the nails, tin oxide based detergent powders are also used, colored like s malts.

Depilatory cosmetics. - They are used to make unwanted hair disappear, especially those on the face. In the East, products based on arsenic sulphide are widely used, while in the West they use products based on calcium and barium sulphhydrates. Thallium acetate cannot be used because it is very harmful and causes hair loss.

Medicine . - Products intended to cultivate the aesthetics of the skin often hide pitfalls against the general health of the body and the skin itself: make-up is especially harmful. The liquids, powders and fats that form the basis of these products are not normally harmful, unlike the natural and synthetic coloring substances that are mixed with them. The red is often made up of mercury sulphide, the white of lead carbonate or bismuth salts which sometimes also contain arsenic: these substances are toxic if absorbed in large quantities and cause the well-known toxic syndromes of mercurialism, saturnism, bismuthism and of Arsenicism. But these same products can also irritate the skin directly and cause inflammatory reactions. Even more harmful are hair dyes when they contain metallic salts of silver, copper, lead, bismuth, iron, nickel, cobalt, or organic derivatives such as pyrogallic acid and especially paraphenylenediamine.

The inflammatory reactions that are provoked on the skin are of different degrees depending on the congenital or acquired sensitivity of the same. Therefore there are either simple urticarial redness, erysipelas with turgor or desquamation, or redness with eczematic exudation, formation of crusts, etc., together with sensations of itching, burning more or less intense. Generally these eruptions disappear with the cessation of the application of the tinctures, but if they were caused in subjects predisposed to eczema, the artificial skin can result in a more or less intense eczema, and not only limited to the parts on which the tincture, but also at a distance, and being tenacious and more or less generalized at times it can eventually turn into a widespread itchy exfogliativa erythroderma with complications of pyoderma and adenopathies. It is not to be excluded in these cases that an absorption of the poisonous substance and therefore a general intoxication is at stake. It is obvious that to cure these dermis it is necessary first of all to remove the causes that produced them, then to act on the skin with anti-inflammatory substances and finally to activate the emunctories for the purpose of detoxification.

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