Paper: Wrinkles and Recipes

Kathleen Walker-Meikle, 'Wrinkles and recipes: Hieronymus Mercurialis on beautifying skin'

Paper to be presented at the conference From Past to Present: Natural Cosmetics Unwrapped

This paper focuses on the sixteenth-century Italian physician Hieronymus Mercurialis’ text on beautifying the face and body: De decoratione (1601). As a counterpart to his most famous text on skin diseases (De morbis cutaneis, 1572), this work focuses on beautifying and improving facial skin, combining theoretical discussion with detailed recipes, covering spots, freckles, wrinkles, bruises, scars, ‘facial colour’, among other skin faults. Mercurialis’ learned medical approach to improving and correcting beauty will be examined, such as his extensive use of classical authority, along with comparing similar texts by his contemporaries, such as Gabriello Fallopio’s De decoratione (1566). Particular attention will be paid to how cosmetic recipes are presented in the text, along with a review of similar recipes in other learned medical and pharmaceutical texts.

The conference From Past to Present: Natural Cosmetics Unwrapped offers an opportunity to approach cosmetics from an interdisciplinary perspective, incorporating elements from the disciplines of classics, ancient history, archaeology, bioarchaeology, pharmacy, and pharmacology. 

This one-day conference takes place at the Royal Pharmaceutical Society, London. Further information and to book (by 10 February 2018) here.

Image: Detail from Domenico Ghirlandaio, Portrait of an Old Man and a Boy, c. 1490 © Musée du Louvre