Saturday, April 23, 2016

1308 Female Saints & Angels by Duccio di Buoninsegna (1255-1319)

Duccio di Buoninsegna (1255-1319) Detail The Maesta

The Maestà, considered Duccio di Buoninsegna's (1255-1319) masterpiece, was commissioned on Oct. 9, 1308, for the main altar of the Cathedral in Siena & was carried in triumph from Duccio's studio to the Cathedral on June 9, 1311.  The Maestà is painted on both sides. The front depicts the Madonna enthroned with saints & angels. In the predella, spandrels, & pinnacles are scenes from the life of the Virgin & portraits of the Prophets. The back is decorated with small panels depicting the life & Passion of Christ.

Duccio di Buoninsegna (1255-1319) Detail Madonna In Trono

 Duccio di Buoninsegna (1255-1319) Detail In Trono

 Duccio di Buoninsegna (1255-1319) Detail In Trono

 Duccio di Buoninsegna (1255-1319) Detail In Trono

 Duccio di Buoninsegna (1255-1319) Detail In Trono

Duccio di Buoninsegna (1255-1319) Detail In Trono

Friday, April 22, 2016

In the Countryside - 1700s Women dressed for hunting, fowling, & shooting

1703 Duchess Franziska Sibylla Augusta of Saxony-Lauenburg and her son  Georg Ludwig by Ivenet

 1710 Electoral Princess Amalia Maria Josepha of Bavaria by Franz Joseph Winter 

 1720s Maria Zofia Czartoryska

 1725 Marie Leczinska, Queen of France by Jean Baptiste Martin, l'Ancien

 1727 Eleonore of Schwarzenberg with her son Joseph by Maximilian Hannel

 1745 Grooth - Catherine the Great of Russia

1746 Sophie-Marie, Countess Voss by Pesne

1748 John Wooton (British artist, 1686-1765) Lady Mary Churchill at the Death of the Hare

 1750 Lady in Hunting Costume, German Miniature

 1750 Maria Anna of Saxony, Electress of Bavaria - J A T Jahreszeiten 

1758 Maria Antonia of Fürstenberg by Franz Josef Weiss

 1700s Portrait of a lady from the Schaezlerpalais in Augsburg

1700s Portrait of an unknown lady

1770s The Ladies Shooting Poney published by Carington Bowles

1778 Miss Wicket and Miss Trigger published by Carington Bowles

1776 The Sporting Lady published by Sayer & Bennett

 1780 Female Fox Hunter by Collett

1781 Marie Antoinette in hunting attire by Louis Auguste Brun de Versoix

1787 The Countess of Effingham by George Haugh (British artist, 1755-1827)

Wednesday, April 20, 2016

Illuminated Manuscripts - Sewing outdoors - Spinning, Carding, Combing, & Weaving

Woman carrying a distaff under her arm while feeding chickens. Luttrell Psalter, British Library, London 1300s England

From the Bible: Exodus 35:25 Every skilled woman spun with her hands and brought ...... All the women who were skilled in sewing and spinning prepared blue, purple, and scarlet thread, and fine linen cloth... 

Unknown artist MS. Fr 599, f. 40 French, 1400s Woman spinning flax using a drop spindle and distaff.

From the Bible: Proverbs 31:19 In her hand she holds the distaff...Her hands are busy spinning thread, her fingers twisting fiber. ... She extends her hands to the spinning staff, and her hands hold the spindle...

 Woman spinning on a great or walking wheel. Luttrell Psalter, British Library, London 1300s

Weaving, spinning, and combing perhaps flax. MS Fr. 598, f. 70v, Bibliotheque Nationale, Paris 1400s France

Unwinding thread from the drop spindle & making a skein. MS Fr. 599, f. 48, Bibliotheque Nationale, Paris 1400s

Sunday, April 17, 2016

Food & Drink - London's 12C Inns & Taverns

by REBECCA SLITT  See here

A simple meal of bread and drink; Livre du roi Modus et de la reine Ratio, 14th century.

"When Londoner William FitzStephen proudly described his city in the late 12C, he found many things to praise. Its trade enriched all of Britain; its soldiers were brave & glorious; its scholars dazzled everyone with their knowledge. But, perhaps surprisingly, William also noted London’s distinctive food options.

"Pointing to the rows of stalls & shops that sold food to the travelers who passed by the banks of the Thames, he explained that, “All things desirable are ready to hand.” According to William, “[a] public cookshop [is] appropriate to a city & pertaining to the art of civic life.”

"The dramatic rise in urbanization & trade that took place in Europe after 1100 C.E. opened up a new world of food for many townspeople. The First Crusade enabled contact between Europe & the Middle East, allowing people from England & France to develop a taste for the more diverse spices & flavors available in the Levant.  More importantly, it fostered the development of trade routes so that those foods could make their way back west.  Within these new urban trade centers, townspeople had easier access to these new foods.

"Medieval urbanites had a different relationship to their food than country dwellers did. Townspeople grew less of what they ate – although many did grow some, even in cities – than their rural counterparts.  Townspeople also bought more, & had access to more varied foodstuffs. This variety was greatest in the huge Italian city-states like Venice & Genoa, which dominated the Mediterranean trade routes & enjoyed closer proximity to the sources of spices & other Asian-grown foods.

"But even in London, at the far northwestern edge of Europe, people had a greater diversity of food & drink than their counterparts in the country. Londoners, for instance, could even obtain wine relatively easily, although this had to be imported from places like Italy & France, & was hard to transport over land because of its weight.

"Grain products, especially wheat & barley, dominated the diet of most northern Europeans, whether they were urban or rural.  Sometimes the grain was consumed in the form of bread; sometimes in the form of ale.

"Medieval ale was less alcoholic & more substantial than modern varieties & it was a legitimate source of nutrition. Many people brewed their own ale, or bought it from a local brewer. Making & selling ale was an especially popular job for women who lived in towns.  The modern English surname Brewster (meaning specifically a female brewer) reflects the legacy of this medieval occupation.

"Because bake-ovens were expensive, hard to build, & dangerous to operate in the close-packed wooden houses of a medieval city most urbanites didn’t bake their own bread. Instead, some people used the ovens of professional bakers. They made the dough at home & then brought it to another oven to be baked.  Other medieval city-dwellers, however, simply bought bread. In Paris, for instance, each village around the city had their own distinctive style of bread that bakers brought in for sale.

"The best bread was, of course, also the most expensive. Remains found in medieval graveyards show a distinctive pattern of wear on the teeth, which tells us that even bread made from the highest-quality flour in late-medieval London had a coarser grain than modern bread.

"Even larger medieval cities like London & Paris still had some green space within them, enough for many residents to have gardens where they grew their own fruits, vegetables, & herbs. This provided a larger variety of fresh foods to the urban population, & ensured that most people had nutritionally balanced diets.  Some people even kept animals on their little patches of land.  Chickens were especially popular, as were goats (good for milk as well as meat) & pigs.

"People in medieval England ate a lot of fish, much more than most modern people do. Fish was easily available because no part of Britain is more than 70 miles from the coast. Christian dietary restrictions indirectly contributed to this emphasis on fish as eating other kinds of meat on Fridays as well as during Advent, Lent, & other important religious holidays was prohibited. London’s proximity to both the ocean & trade routes meant not only that its residents ate a lot of fish but also that they had access to a wide variety of types of fish.

"The biggest difference between urban & rural diets in medieval England was in the range of available spices. There’s a persistent belief that the heavy spicing of medieval food, especially meat, was intended to hide the fact that the food was slightly off, but this is undoubtedly a myth. While preservation options, especially for meat, were certainly more limited in the Middle Ages, medieval people could still tell when food was past its prime.  They also understood that eating it in that state would cause serious illness. But the people who could afford spices on a regular basis were the wealthiest ones – the same people who could also afford high-quality food & were, therefore, the least likely to be forced to eat spoiled meat.

"Instead, there were two main reasons for the abundant spices that we see in medieval recipes. First, people simply liked the flavors. Medieval palates appear to have favored different combinations of spices than modern ones.  They especially liked contrasts between sweet & sour or sweet & spicy. For instance, a fifteenth-century English cookbook includes a recipe for a pie filled with ground pork flavored with honey & black pepper; a fourteenth-century recipe gives instructions for a fish pie that includes white pepper, cloves, ginger, cinnamon, & sugar.

"But such heavily spiced dishes also had a social appeal as the high cost of spices made them a status symbol. Serving guests a dish flavored with three different kinds of pepper – as many recipes called for –told everyone that you could afford to buy expensive things.

"Ginger, cloves, pepper, & saffron were the most commonly used spices. Cane sugar, which was also regarded as a spice, was cultivated in Spain as well as the Middle East, & it was highly prized as an ingredient in both food & medicine.  Saffron seems to have been even more popular than it is today, despite its high cost. It’s still one of the most expensive foods in the world – it can sell for more than $10,000 a pound. The cost didn’t stop medieval cooks – or, at least, medieval recipe-writers – from using it often. Saffron was also popular because of the distinctive yellow-orange color that it gave to food: it made your wealth visible.

"Several spices were much more common in medieval Europe than modern Europe. For instance, galingale – known to modern chefs as galangal – is mostly found in Thai cooking today, but was very popular in medieval recipes. When Marco Polo found a source of galingale on his travels, he was overjoyed because he knew there was a big market for it back home. Melegueta pepper – also known as grains of paradise – is another spice more common in medieval European cooking than in its modern Western counterpart.  Today this spice is found mainly in Middle Eastern specialty stores, but recipes from late-medieval England & France took it for granted that cooks would have access to it.

"All of these recipes come from elite households: nobles or very wealthy commoners. Those were the only people who would need to give instructions to cooks on how to construct elaborate dishes.  Only these people would have had access to the wide range of spices & ingredients described in the recipes & only these people would have known how to read the recipes in the first place. Large cities like London were the also the sole places with wealthy non-nobles – the families of merchants, lawyers, civil servants, jewelers – who could support this kind of food culture.

"At the other end of the social scale was the cookshop. As William FitzStephen wrote, these were unique to cities, because only in cities would there be a critical mass of people without kitchens of their own to support these businesses. Cookshops were so abundant in twelfth-century Jerusalem that French-speaking residents named one street Malquissinat: “the Street of Evil Cooking.” In London, cookshops clustered in two main places: near the river where they would be convenient to the water-borne traders, pilgrims, & travelers; & in poor neighborhoods, where tenement dwellers lacked a hearth over which they could cook. Like the residents of modern urban “food deserts,” many impoverished medieval Londoners had to rely on takeout food.

"Late-medieval Londoners ate well, thanks to their trade connections & their creative use of space. They also had a wide range of foods open to them: fresh fruits & vegetables, flavorful spices, abundant meat & fish & wine."

Rebecca Slitt received her Ph.D. in medieval history from Fordham University. Her academic work focuses on aristocratic culture & historical writing in 12C England.

A few portraits of early English Royals

1066 King William I, (1027-1087) Reigned 1066–87

The early rulers of England portrayed in the full glory of power. Here are a few of my favorites.  These portraits are from the National Portrait Gallery in London.  They are claimed to have been painted before the mid-1600s.

1100 King Henry I, (1068-1135) Reigned 1100–1135 (Henry I fathered more than 20 children, but only 2 were legitimate: William the Ætheling, who died in a shipwreck, & the Empress Matilda. When Henry died in 1135, his decision to name Matilda as his heir led to the 19-year civil war known as the Anarchy.)

1135 King Stephen,  (1092–1154)  Reigned 1135–54

1154 King Henry II 1133-1189 Reigned 1154-1189

1199 King John  1066-1216  Reigned 1199 - 1216

1216 King Edward II 1207-1272  Reigned 1216-1272

1327 King Edward III 1312-1377  Reigned 1327-1377

1377 King Richard II 1367-1400  Reigned 1377-1399

1461 King Edward IV (1442-1483), Reigned 1461-70 and 1471-83  

1483 King Edward V1470-1483  Reigned 1483

1483 King Richard III  1452-1485  Reigned 1483-1485

1485 King Henry VII (1457-1509), Reigned 1485-1509

1509 King Henry VIII, 1491-1547  Reigned 1509–1547

Friday, April 15, 2016

Public Bathing - Thomas Jefferson & the hot, mineral baths at Warm Springs, Virginia

"You and I ought not to die, before we have explained ourselves to each other," John Adams (1735-1826) wrote Thomas Jefferson (1743-1826) in July 1813.  Often at each other's throats, the former presidents were mellowing in their old age as infirmities began to set in.

Thomas Jefferson, the 3rd President of the United States, was the victim of a variety of physical disorders including stress-induced headaches, periods of intense diarrhea, painful joints, several bone fractures, probably prostatic cancer, & declining kidney function. Intermittently he experienced depression, & insomnia; as he was an anxious, probably compulsively controlled person.  (Sounds familiar.)

An engraving of a 73-year-old Thomas Jefferson by John Neagle, after an 1816 painting by Bass Otis

Thomas Jefferson was in his mid-70s, when he visited the mineral waters at Warm Springs.  Warm Springs, later called the Jefferson Pools, is located in Bath County, Virginia.  Jefferson first mentioned being disabled by "rheumatism" in summer 1811.  By 1818, he wrote of his most severe attack of rheumatism ever, accompanied by life-threatening constipation. Taking the waters at Warm Springs, Virginia, may have helped the rheumatism & probably acted as a colonic, but Jefferson expressed some negative responses to the experience.

In 1761, an octagonal Pool House was built at Warm Springs for use by ladies & gentlemen alike, though at alternate times from early morning to late evenings. 

1768 Delle Terme Porrenttae, by Italian botanist Ferdinando Bassi, features illustrations including this one, of individuals bathing in a lake or healthy mineral spring.

Jefferson had first written about Virginia's warm, mineral springs, in his 1785 Notes on the State of Virginia, “There are several medicinal springs, some of which are indubitably efficacious, while others seem to owe their reputation as much to fancy and change of air and regimen, as to their real virtues.”  There were 2 pools at Warm Springs, 35 feet in diameter & fed by the spring through loose cobbles at the bottom of the pools. The temperature of the water varied only a degree or two from its usual 96.   

When John Howell Briggs, who had represented Sussex County at the 1788 Virginia Ratifying Convention, visited in July 1804, he found indifferent accommodations & indifferent food. Yet, he said, “the bath at the Warm Springs is most luxurious. It is inclosed with an octangular wall; about ten yards across and in the center about 5 feet 6 inches deep, shallower at the sides.”  In 1805, Virginian John Baylor noted in a letter that the springs’ buildings were constructed of logs, and he mentioned the offensive smell of the water like “a dirty Barrel of a gun.” 

A year later, Virginian Alexander Dick wrote in his 1806 journal of log huts at Warm Springs; the smell of the copious spring; & of 50 to 60 people with attendant servants, horses, & carriages.  In 1808-09, John Caldwell of New York toured Virginia & published letters about what he saw, "The warm springs, from whence I date this letter, are five miles from the hot springs; here is, perhaps, the largest and most elegant bath in the world. The water is blood warm, and bubbling out of the rock underneath, can be raised or lowered at the pleasure of the bathers."

Edward Beyer’s print of Warm Springs published in 1857 in Album of Virginia: or, Illustration of the Old Dominion. Edward Beyer, a German artist, spent 2 years traveling, sketching, & painting throughout Virginia.

With the hope of helping his aching joints, Thomas Jefferson visited Warm Springs in 1818.  His initial assessment of the effect of the spring water was positive, but his visit led to near-disastrous results. On August 4, he wrote his daughter, Martha Washington Jefferson Randolph (1772-1836) , “Every body tells me the time I allot to the Springs is too short. That 2. or 3. weeks bathing will be essential. I shall know better when I get there.” Three days later Jefferson wrote Martha that he had journeyed by horseback to the springs  & had “tried once to-day the delicious bath and shall do it twice a day hereafter.” He described the table as well kept  & the other guests numbering about 45, “but little gay company here at this time, and I rather expect to pass a dull dull a place, and distressing an ennui I never before knew. … the spring with the Hot and Warm are those of the first merit. The sweet springs retain esteem, but in limited cases.”

Martha Washington Jefferson Randolph (1772-1836) by James Westhall Ford (American artist, 1794-1866)

In a 2nd letter to his daughter 1 week later on August 14, 1818, Jefferson wrote that he continued to bathe for 15 minutes 3 times a day & presumed that the seeds of his rheumatism were eradicated. He decided to yield to the general advice of a 3 week stay. He wanted “to prevent the necessity of ever coming here a 2d time." 

In his 3rd week of taking the waters at Warm Springs in 1818, Jefferson developed boils on his buttocks. The 50+ mile ride to the spa plus possibly unsanitary conditions there may have led to this illness.  His homeward return ride was a trial. Once at home, for several weeks he conducted his correspondence lying down. He did not ride a horse for several months.  

He wrote his daughter again on August 21, 1818, “I do not know what may be the effect of this course of bathing on my constitution; but I am under great threats that it will work it’s effect thro’ a system of boils. A large swelling on my seat, increasing for several days past in size and hardness disables me from sitting but on the corner of a chair. Another swelling begins to manifest itself to-day on the other seat.” 

Jefferson’s letter of September 12, 1818 to Dr. Thomas Cooper (1759-1839), 1st professor of natural science & law in the University of Virginia, stated that he had returned from the Warm Springs several days earlier though not in the condition he had hoped but instead “in prostrated health, from the use of the waters. Their effect, and the journey back reduced me to the last stage of exhaustion; but I am recovering.” He explained the brevity of his letter as a result of not being able to sit erect due to pain.

On October 6, 1818, Jefferson wrote to his old friend, South Carolina Senator Colonel William Alston (1756-1839), “I became seriously affected afterwards by the continuance of the use of the waters. They produced imposthume (abscess), eruption, with fever, colliquative (profuse) sweats and extreme debility. These sufferings, aggravated by the torment of long & rough roads, reduced me to the lowest stage of exhaustion by the time I got home. I have been on the recovery some time, & still am so; but not yet able to sit erect for writing.”

Jefferson wrote John George Jackson (1777–1825), attorney & industrialist, just after Christmas on December 27, 1818, that “my trial of the Warm springs was certainly ill advised. for I went to them in perfect health, and ought to have reflected that remedies of their potency must have effect some way or other. if they find disease they remove it; if none, they make it. altho’ I was reduced very low, I may be said to have been rather on the road to danger, than in actual danger.”

Assessing his 1818 visit to the mineral springs as a past president, Thomas Jefferson wrote, “it would be money well bestowed could the public employ a well educated and experienced physician to attend at each of the medicinal springs, to observe, record, and publish the cases which receive benefit, those receiving none, and those rendered worse by the use of their respective waters.”  (The normally strict constructionist Jefferson had supported the establishment of federal Marine Hospitals in 1798; & of course, negotiated nearly by himself for the Louisiana Purchase less than a decade later.)  

In 1819, Jefferson explained that he was "too feeble to walk much but riding without fatigue six to eight miles per day, and sometimes thirty or forty."  Jefferson's strength declined further in winter 1822, when he wrote that he could walk "only [to] reach my garden, and that with sensible fatigue." 

John Adams, at about age 80 c 1816, by Samuel F.B. Morse

Jefferson wrote. "Man, like the fruit he eats, has his period of ripeness. Like that, too, if he continues longer hanging to the stem, it is but an useless and unsightly appendange."  Six months before his death, John Adams wrote to Jefferson: "I am certainly very near the end of my life. I am far from trifling with the idea of Death which is a great and solemn event. But I contemplate it without terror or dismay." Presidents John Adams & Thomas Jefferson both died on July 4, 1826.


Edwin Morris Betts and James Adam Bear, editors, The Family Letters of Thomas Jefferson, Columbia, Missouri: University of Missouri Press, 1966.

William Burke, The Mineral Springs of Western Virginia, New York: Wiley and Putnam, 1846.  

Exhibit inspired by William Burke's work at the University of Virginia Library, Claude Moore Health Sciences Library, organized & curated in 2009, by Janet Pearson, under the direction of Joan Echtenkamp Klein.

Analysis of The Water at Warm Springs
Approximate Partial Analysis (Parts per Million)

388.00    Dissolved Solids (Calculated) 
120.00    Iron (Fe)   
    5.40    Sodium (Na) (Calculated)  
194.00    Bicarbonate (HCO3) 194.00
160.00    Sulphate (So4) (by turbidity) 
    1.50    Chloride (Cl)  
      .10    Nitrate (NO3)  
 316.00    Total Hardness (as CA CAO3)