The Perils of Indulging in Cosmetics ; ‘Il Libro dell’ Arte’.

Anon Manuscript
Anon Manuscript

I thought I would put a small excerpt from Cennini’s excellent Il Libro dell’ Arte on the blog today:

“You would have occasion in the service of young ladies, especially those of Tuscany to display certain colours to which they take a fancy. And they are in the habit of beautifying themselves with certain waters. But since the Paduan women do not do so; and so as not to give them occasion to reproach  me; and likewise because it is contrary to the Will of God and Our Lady; because of all this I shall keep silence. But I will tell you that if you wish to keep your complexion for a long time; you must take a practice of washing in water-spring or well or river: warning you that if you adopt any artificial preparation your countenance soon becomes withered, and your teeth black; and in the end ladies grow old before the course of time; they come out the most hideous old women imaginable. And this will have to be enough discussion of the matter.”


Quite reminds me of my grandmother’s woe at freckles. Il Libro Dell’ Arte is still studied for its excellence in technique in painting,from grinding colours through creating fresco. If one can ignore the jaundiced approach to women… its always best to keep in mind the artistic instruction books were written solely for the benefit of young men hoping to be apprenticed to masters, but he does some pretty good facial and cosmetics advice therein.

The Craftsman’s Handbook , ” Il Libro dell’ Arte “. Cennino d’Andrea
Cennini, Trans, Daniel V. Thompson Jr. Dover. 1960

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