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My Medieval Bath Display

display and page under construction

 

Welcome to my newest display... a medieval bath. My fondest hope with this display is that members of the public will come to learn that medieval people did, in fact, bath. Many people have the Hollywood ideal that people in the middle ages were dirty, smelly and had poor hygiene. It just isn't true.

Soaps were known. Food and drink might be taken in the tub while a musician provided entertainment.

In the 14th century Boccaccio's the Decameron we read about bathing-

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.

The image at left is my base style guide and is from Sloane 2435, Aldobrandino of Siena, Le Régime du corps (ff. 1-75v); Image du monde (ff. 77-133v) France, N. Dated to the 3rd quarter of the 13th century (perhaps c. 1285) Folio 8v. My aim is to provide the trappings of a bath house in a domestic setting. Herbs for bathing, soaps, a tub and board with food and drinks, a striped linen towel and some personal grooming tools and skin care.

The Tacuinum sanitatis of Liege, folio 76, writes of the virtues of bathing with Water of A Pleasurable Warmth:

Nature: Warm and humid in the second degree.
Optimum: The kind that opens the pores with moderate heat or with a fever.
Usefulness: For bodies with open pores; furthermore, it lowers the temperature.
Dangers: for intestinal flow.
Neutralisation of the dangers: With astringent drinks.

Drinks, therefore, were recommended.

Below is listed the individual pieces and their sources and contruction methods if known. The display can also include a talk on basic medieval hygiene and skin care and includes samples of some medieval skin care products.


Infrastructure
Bath tub

Country of Origin: generic
Time Period: medieval
Type of Item: bath
Colour/colours: natural
Materials: Oak, metal
Construction: traditionally made wine cask half with securing metal bands
Decoration & Finshes: painted interior. Iron bands to be covered with flexible wood. wip
Documentation: The Hague, KB, 76 F 21 fol. 15r Mary in bath Fol. 15r

Wooden Low Stool

Country of Origin: Generic
Time Period: medieval
Type of Item: Stool
Colour/colours: Oak stain
Materials: Pine
Construction: Nailed and glued
Decoration & Finshes: 2 coats of stain, Curved end pieces.
Made by: Rosalie's Medieval Woman
Documentation: Elizabeth Altarpiece from the Church of St. Agidius at Bardejov, c. 1480-1500
Three legged stool

Country of Origin: England
Time Period: 14th century
Type of Item: Stool
Colour/colours: natural
Materials: maple
Construction: Traditional methods recycling a 1950s church pew
Decoration & Finshes: Waxed with beeswax & olive oil
Made by: Roy Davi, The Leura Bodger, Blue Mountains.

Board

Country of Origin: Generic
Time Period: medieval
Type of Item: bath board
Colour/colours: Oak stain
Materials: Pine
Construction: cut to size
Decoration & Finshes: none
Made by: Rosalie's Medieval Woman
Documentation:

Wooden bucket

Country of Origin: Generic
Time Period: Medieval
Type of Item: Wooden bucket
Colour/colours: Brown
Materials: Wood
Construction: unknown
Made by: upcycle by Rosalie's Medieval Woman
Documentation: Codices vindobonenses 2759-2764 in the Osterreichischen Nationalbibliothek, in Vienna, Austria.

Laver stand and jug

Country of Origin: Generic
Time Period: medieval
Type of Item: laver stand and jug
Colour/colours: Oak stain
Materials: Pine
Construction: Nailed and glued
Decoration & Finshes: 2 coats of stain, wax
Made by: Rosalie's Medieval Woman
Documentation:


Soft furnishings & Linens

Bath curtains

Country of Origin:
England
Time Period: medieval
Type of Item: curtains
Colour/colours: white
Materials: linen
Construction: machined stitching
Decoration & Finishes: navy blue circular top

Made by: Rosalie's Medieval Woman
Documentation: Aldobrandino of Siena, Le Régime du corps folio 8v

Striped Towel

Country of Origin: Everywhere
Time Period: 13th-15th century
Type of Item: Towel
Colour/colours: Blue and white
Materials: Flax linen/cotton
Construction: Hand woven
Dimensions: 80cm x 155cm
Decorations: diamond weave with blue stripes and tassels
Made by: unknown for Medieval Design, Italy
Documentation: 1350 Manuscript Naples Wedding at Canna

Striped Tablecloth

Country of Origin: Everywhere
Time Period: 13th-15th century
Type of Item: Towel
Outer Colour/colours: Blue and white
Construction Materials: Flax linen/cotton
Construction: Hand woven
Dimensions: 35cm x 150cm
Decorations: diamond weave with blue stripes and tassels
Made by: unknown for Medieval Design, Italy
Documentation: 1350 Manuscript Naples Wedding at Canna

Hand towel

Country of Origin: Everywhere
Time Period: Medieval
Type of Item: hand towel
Colour/colours: White
Materials: Cotton in diaper weave
Construction: Hand stitched with rolled hems
Decoration: fringed on ends
Made by: Commercially woven, fringed by Rosalie
Documentation
 

bathing items

Castile Soap 110g

Country of Origin:
Castile
Time Period: medieval
Type of item: unscented soap
Colour: natural
Materials: Saponified olive oil, Alden's Olives, Cohuna, Victoria.

Decoration: none
Made by: Biome, Brisbane
Documentation: written accounts

Rosewater

Country of Origin:
Everywhere
Time Period: medieval
Type of Item: rosewater
Colour: pale pink
Materials: roses
Decoration: n/a
Made by: Besttaste, Iran
Documentation: Trotula et al

Hair powder

The Trotula, or the set of three texts attributed to Trotula, include On Women's Cosmetics, and include recipes for beauty including a beautiful-smelling hair powder, so that the hair remains sweetly scented. In the section about On Various Kinds of Adornments, it reads:

But when she combs her hair, let her have this powder. Take some dried roses, clove, nutmeg, watercress and galangal. Let all these, powdered, be mixed with rose water. With this water let her sprinkle her hair and comb it with a comb dipped in this same water so that [her hair] will smell better. And let her make furrows in her hair and sprinkle on the above-mentioned powder, and it will smell marvelously.

The entire process of living history experiment recreating the hair powder according to the recipe, is here on the TROTULA'S HAIR POWDER page.


Country of Origin:
Salerno
Time Period: medieval
Type of Accessory: hair powder
Colour: natural
Materials: dried roses, clove, nutmeg, watercress, galangal, rose water
Made by: Rosalie's Medieval Woman
Documentation:
Trotula, On Cosmetics (attributed)

Perfume

Country of Origin:
Time Period: medieval
Type of Item: perfume/scent
Colour:
Materials:
Made by: Rosalie's Medieval Woman
Documentation:
Trotula, On Cosmetics

Rouge

Country of Origin:
Time Period: medieval
Type of Item: rouge for pink cheeks
Colour: pink
Materials:
Made by: Rosalie's Medieval Woman
Documentation: Trotula, On Cosmetics

Lip balm/stain

Country of Origin:

Time Period: medieval
Type of Item: lip balm
Colour:
Materials:
Made by: Rosalie's Medieval Woman
Documentation:
Trotula, On Cosmetics
Skin tonic

Country of Origin:

Time Period: medieval
Type of Item: Tonic to...
Colour:
Materials:
Made by: Rosalie's Medieval Woman
Documentation: Trotula, On Cosmetics

Fresh herbs for bathing

Country of Origin:
Time Period: medieval
Type of Item:
Colour:
Materials:
Made by: Rosalie's Medieval Woman
Documentation
:

Rose petals

Country of Origin:
Everywhere
Time Period: medieval
Type of Item: rose petals
Colour:
Materials: roses
Made by: Rosalie's Medieval Woman
Documentation
:

Sea Sponge: large 17cm

Country of Origin:
Italy
Time Period: medieval
Type of item: Sea sponge
Outer Colour: natural
Materials: none
Decoration: none
Made by: nature
Documentation:
Bath scene

Water jug

Country of Origin:
Generic
Time Period: medieval
Type of item: ceramic water jug
Colour: terracotta
Materials: clay
Decoration: glazed
Made by: unknown
Documentation
: extant finds

personal items
Ivory mirror case

Country of Origin: France
Time Period: 14th century.
Type of Accessory: Mirror
Materials: Resin, glass
Construction: Cast resin mirrorcase with glass foil-backed mirror. Hand cast.
Decoration: Hunting scene with four lions.
Dimensions: 110mm diameter.
Made by: (? Poland?Checz)
Documentation: Extant mirror, Louve
Wooden double sided comb

Country of Origin: England, France
Time Period: 14th century
Type of item: Double sided comb
Colour: natural wood
Materials: Wood, type unknown (boxwood?)
Construction: Hand made
Decoration: Series of decorative stars on comb body
Made by: unknown
Documentation: 14th century Paris comb, Elizabeth Altarpiece from the Church of St. Agidius at Bardejov, c. 1480-1500
Bone Gravour (hair parter)

Country of Origin: France
Time Period: 14th century
Type of item: Hair parter- gravour
Colour: White
Materials: Bone
Construction: Hand carved and shaped
Decoration: undecorated
Made by: unknown
Documentation:

Tweezers

Country of Origin: England
Time Period: medieval
Type of Item: locking tweezers
Colour: gold
Materials: brass
Decoration: several incised grooves, locking wire
Construction: Hand made
Made by: Gaukler Medieval Wares
Documentation:
14th century artifact, The Gilbert Collection

Earscoop & nail cleaner

Country of Origin:
Time Period: medieval
Type of Item: ear scoop and nail cleaner
Colour: gold
Materials: brass
Decoration: barley twist main stem
Construction:
Hand made
Made by:
Gaukler Medieval Wares
Documentation:
14th century artifact, The Gilbert Collection

Paternoster

Country of Origin: England
Time Period: 14th century
Type of Item: Paternoster
Colour/colours: red, white, gold
Materials: Linen thread, marble, gold spacers, red silk tassel
Construction: Ten groups of ten beads threaded onto linen, gold spacer, with tassel terminating at the end.
Decoration: none
Made by: Rosalie's Medieval Woman
Documentation: 1400s Mother of God With Pea Blossom, Master of Cologne, Germany
Ball headed dress pins

Country of Origin: Generic
Time Period: 14th century
Type of Item: veil pins
Colour: gold
Materials: brass
Construction: hand made
Decoration: ball heads
Made by: Bero Heftelmacher, Bero von Saeckingen, Germany
Documentation: Extant pins, Museum of London
Cosmetics containers

Country of Origin: Generic
Time Period: Medieval
Type of Item: Container
Colour/colours: Natural
Materials: Wood
Construction: Hand turned
Decoration & Finishes: lines running horizontally
Made by: Walter
Documentation: Artifacts
Birch Box with lid

Country of Origin:
Time Period: 14th century
Type of Item: Bentwood box
Colour/colours: Light brown
Materials: Birch
Construction: Commercially produced
Dimensions: 19cm diameter
Decoration & Finishes: handpainted with scene from the Manesse Codex, Germany
Made by: unknown, painted by Rosalie's Medieval Woman
Documentation: Extant painted box

Tableware
Flagon

Country of Origin:
England, France, Switzerland
Time Period: 1350 onwards
Type of Item: Flagon
Colour: Silver
Materials: Pewter
Construction: 8 body panels soldered together. The lid is cast in one piece with the finial and twin ball thumb-piece being cast separately and then soldered on. 21cm tall. One and a half pints capacity.
Decoration: Acorn finial on lid and hinge
Made by: Steve Millingham Pewter Reproductions or Lionheart Replicas
Documentation: Artifact. Tonbridge Flagon, River Medway, Tonbridge Castle, England. dated 1400. Three examples have currently been found in England to date, while further examples have been found on the continent.
Hexagonal beaker

Country of Origin:
Prague
Time Period: 1350
Type of Item: Cup
Colour: Silver
Materials: Pewter
Construction: Pewter cast in one piece with hexagonal sides.
Details of Decoration: None
Made by: Steve Millingham Pewter Reproductions
Documentation: Artifact, Prague. dated at between 1310 and 1335 and made of gilded silver and are from Prague. The panels were made separately and soldered together. Other artifact dated 1350 (?) Pewter tableware dates as early as the late 13th century. Approx 300 pieces are listed in Edward I's rolls.
Large silver plate

Country of Origin:
England
Time Period: medieval
Type of Item: Plate
Outer Colour: Silver
Construction Materials: Pewter
Details of Construction: Cast in one piece, wide flat rim
Dimensions:
Details of Decoration: No decoration
Made by:
Documentation: Artifacts, Compton Castle Collection. Pewter tableware dates as early as the late 13th century. Approximately 300 pieces are listed in Edward I's rolls.

Bone handled knife

Country of Origin: England
Time Period: 1350-1400
Type of Item: Knife
Colour/colours: Cream
Materials: Bone, steel
Construction: Not known, original blade modified
Made by: unknown
Documentation: Artifact. 1350 Thames, England

Acorn knop spoon

Country of Origin:
England France
Time Period: 14th century
Type of Item: Spoon
Colour: Silver
Materials: Pewter
Construction: Cast in one piece. Wide, fig-shaped dish. Wide finial.
Decoration: Acorn finial, stamped S on bowl.
Made by: Steve Millingham Pewter Replicas
Documentation: Artifacts. York City Museum replica. Also 14thC Bronze spoon, France, MedGallery, Collection of Jean Boxhorn. Metropolitan Museum of Art states the first known reference to the acorn spoon is in a will dated 1348 where John de Holegh bequeathed to Thomas Taillour "12 silver spoons with akernes". The Gilbert family lists a purchase of 8 silver Acorn spoons.

 

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