Wednesday, April 13, 2016

Bathing - Indoors & with Guests - Illuminated Manuscripts

Antithesis Christi et Antichristi (Jenský kodexJena Codex), Bohemia ca. 1490-1510 (Praha, Knihovna Národního muzea, IV.B.24, fol. 78v)

1470 A Bathhouse in Valerius Maximus’ Facta et Dicta Memorabilia (fol. 244) by Master of Anthony of Burgundy

This miniature illumination of a bathhouse scene is a conflation of 2 passages from Book IX of Facta et dicta memorabilia (Memorable Deeds & Sayings) by the 1C Roman author, Valerius Maximus: the baths of Sergius Orata, & the leisure of Hannibal’s troops at Capua. Valerius Maximus presented both stories as examples of the vices of greed & luxury. Sergius Orata was a Roman engineer who profited from his invention of thermal baths & reveled in his wealth. Hannibal’s troops engaged in excessive eating, drinking, & fornication with prostitutes & thus became weak & lax. The combination of the 2 narratives appears to have been a popular medieval invention & appears in at least 4 15C manuscripts from the Burgundian Netherlands & England. Anthony of Burgundy, the illegitimate son of Phillip the Good (duke of Burgundy as Philip III), commissioned this lavish manuscript from a prestigious Flemish painter known as the Master of Anthony of Burgundy.

The illumination depicts a man in courtly garb & a king, perhaps Hannibal, observing debauchery in the baths. Nude men & women bathe & eat together, while 2 couples in the baths & a couple in an adjacent room kiss & fondle. A musician playing the lute & a dancing dog add to the overall rowdiness of the scene. The women wear elaborate veils & jeweled necklaces which lend further evidence to the idea that they probably are prostitutes. The Master of Anthony of Burgundy chose to place the scene of luxury in a contemporary Flemish bath house or brothel rather than an ancient Roman one. Brothels with adjacent bath houses & public bath houses that also offered illicit prostitution were common in the late Middle Ages in France, the Low Countries, & Germany. Although prostitution was illegal in public bath houses, proprietors often overlooked the law (Otis, 2009). In at least one instance, however, one proprietor in Nîmes obtained permission to run 2 bath houses, one with a brothel & one without. Bath house-brothels earned a reputation for vice & licentiousness. Gambling, theft, & drunkenness all appear as complaints in legal documents. Given the illicit status of most bath house brothels, the merging of bath & brothel in the Valerius Maximus manuscripts may have been a logical choice to demonstrate the essence of the vice of luxury. Source: Wikimedia Commons

1400s A Bathhouse in Valerius Maximus’ Facta et Dicta Memorabilia (fol. 372)

About hair washing for women:"After leaving the bath, let her adorn her hair, and first of all let her wash it with a cleanser such as this. Take ashes of burnt vine, the chaff of barley nodes, and licorice wood (so that it may the more brightly shine), and sowbread... with this cleanser let the woman wash her head. After the washing, let her leave it to dry by itself, and her hair will be golden and shimmering...  If the woman wishes to have long and black hair, take a green lizard and, having removed its head and tail, cook it in common oil. Anoint the head with this oil. It makes the hair long and black." 
The Trotula: A Medieval Compendium of Women's Medicine. Ed. and trans. Monica H. Green (Philadelphia, 2001). 

 Balneum Tripergulae - detail from miniature of the Code Angelico's De Balneis Puteolanis of Pietro da Eboli.

Lujuria Valerius Maximus, translated by Simon de Hesdin and Nicholas de Gonesse, Facta et Dicta Memorabilia. France, N. (Amiens or Hesdin), or Netherlands, S. 3rd quarter of the 15C

Memmo of Filippuccio, the mayor and his wife to the bathing room - fresco from the Palazzo Comunale di San Gimignano (Siena), 14C

Miniature by the Master of the Dresden Prayer Book in Valerius Maximus, Facta et dicta memorabilia , commissioned by Jean Gros, c 1480.


Bibliothèque nationale de France, Latin 8161, f. 19r. Petrus de Ebulo, De balneis puteolanis. Naples, mid-14C

Horae ad usum Parisiensem. 1401-1500 Encadrements ou bordures

From 14C Boccaccio's the Decameron; "Without permitting anyone else to lay a hand on him, the lady herself washed Salabaetto all over with soap scented with musk and cloves. She then had herself washed and rubbed down by the slaves. This done, the slaves brought two fine and very white sheets, so scented with roses that they seemed like roses; the slaves wrapped Salabaetto in one and the lady in the other and then carried them both on their shoulders to the bed . . . They then took from the basket silver vases of great beauty, some of which were filled with rose water, some with orange water, some with jasmine water, and some with lemon water, which they sprinkled upon them. After which they refreshed themselves with boxes of sweetmeats and the finest wines."

 Illuminated Manuscripts - Bath House

 Bibliothèque de l’Arsenal, 3525, f.84v. Watriquet de Couvin, Dits. 14C.

Poggio Bracciolini, 15C Florentine, gives a detailed description of the refined habits of the thermal baths of Baden Baden, in Germany, in a letter to his friend Niccolo Niccoli: A vast internal square that occupies half of the place is surrounded by magnificent hotels where much people can comfortably stay for guests. Each house has its particular bathroom for those who live there. The bathrooms are in number thirty. Two of these totally open to serve the public washing of the common people of all ages and both sexes... It divides the males from the females a low fence, which is fitting for the people not the enemy. And 'interesting to observe together with the old decrepit, fresh maidens descend without nell'acque robe, and naked exposing himself to the profane gaze of men... The bathrooms in private houses are very clean: likewise in these males are separated from females only by means of a subtle division, with some low windows, from which Possoni see each other, talk, shake hands and drink together; all things that accadon commonly... Men do not wear a girdle. Women have certain linen blouses open at the sides, and that do not cover, or neck, or chest, or arms. Women often eat in the common expenses in the bathroom for a board that floats which are gladly accepted likewise men.

Biblioteca Nacional de España, Cod. Vitr. 24-3, detail of f. 10v. Libro de horas de Carlos V. Paris (workshop of Jean Poyer?), late 15th/early 16th century.

 Illuminated Manuscripts - Bathing

 Illuminated Manuscripts - Bathing

 Illuminated Manuscripts - Bathing

Codices vindobonenses 2759-2764  in the Osterreichischen Nationalbibliothek, in Vienna, Austria.

"You shall finde it wonderfull expedient, if you bath your head foure times in the yeare, and that with hot lee made of ashes. After which, you must cause one presently to poure two or three gallons of cold fountain water upon your head. Then let your head be dryed with cold towels. Which sodaine pouring downe of cold water, although it doth mightily terrifie you, yet nevertheles, it is very good, for therby the naturall heate is stirred within the body, baldnesse is kept backe, and the memory is quickened. In like manner, washing of hands often, doth much availe the eyesight." William Vaughan, Approved Directions for Health (1612)

Kamal ad-din Behzad, (Iranian painter, 1450-1535) Gentlemen Bathing

Kamal ad-din Behzad, (Iranian painter, 1450-1535) Women Bathing


Archibald, Elizabeth, “Did Knights Have Baths? The Absence of Bathing in Middle English Romance,” Cultural Encounters In The Romance Of Medieval England, edited by Corinne Saunders (Boydell, 2005)

Caskey, Jill, “Steam and “Sanitas” in the Domestic Realm: Baths and Bathing in Southern Italy in the Middle Ages,” Journal of the Society of Architectural Historians, Vol. 58, No. 2 (1999)

Harvey, Barbara, Living and Dying in England, 1100-1540: The Monastic Experience (Clarendon Press, 1993)

Holmes, Urban Tigner, Daily Life in the Twelfth-Century (University of Wisconsin Press, 1952)

Lucas, A.T., “Washing and Bathing in Ancient Ireland,” The Journal of the Royal Society of Antiquaries of Ireland, Vol. 95, No. 1/2 (1965)

Newman, Paul B., Daily Life in the Middle Ages (McFarland and Co., 2001)

Smith, Virginia, Clean: A History of Personal Hygiene and Purity (Oxford University Press, 2007)

van Dam, Fabiola I., “Permeable Boundaries: Bodies, Bathing and FLuxes, 1135-1333,” Medicine and Space: Body, Surroundings and Borders in Antiquity and the Middle Ages, ed. Patricia Baker (Brill, 2012)

van Winter, Johanna Maria, “Medieval Opinions about Food and Drinking in Connection with Bathing,” Spices and Comfits: Collected Papers on Medieval Food (Prospect Books, 2007)

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