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Shaving

Posted: Fri Dec 11, 2009 10:36 am
by Clarenceboy
Wondered if anyone had any ideas or sources for this. I am putting together a few bits for a personal grooming set at events (15th C) so far I am looking at a ear scoop, tweesers and tooth pick along with a mirror and razor, having sourced all these I came across a bit of a problem with regards the lubricant with which to shave.
I know 17th onwards there were badger hair brushs for applying a soapy lather to the face and I know going back to classicial civilisation you have oils worked into the skin before shaving but I can't find any definitive evidence for what was done in the 15TH century.
I am assuming that both soap and oils were used but with soap you would need something to get a lather going suerly and with oil I wondered what type, as I would guess olive oil would be expensive.

So what I was wondering is if anyone had any images of barbers going about their business or written documents of anything that might be useful?

Any help would be greatly appreciated

Re: Shaving

Posted: Fri Dec 11, 2009 12:00 pm
by John Waller
The Petty Import accounts show many imports of barrels of oil (type unspecified but I assume olive oil) and train oil - which is whale oil, specifically from Wright whales. Give it a try if you can find any! You don't need a lot of oil for a shave - witness modern shave oils in tiny bottles and I doubt most shaved every day.

Imports also of many razors, soaps, sponges, mirrors and combs which may be for personal grooming.

Still looking for examples of actual practice.

Re: Shaving

Posted: Fri Dec 11, 2009 12:32 pm
by John Waller
Not seen this book but it might be worth seeking out

Plucked, Shaved & Braided: Medieval and Renaissance Beauty and Grooming Practices 1000-1600. by Daniela Turudich

Re: Shaving

Posted: Fri Dec 11, 2009 4:31 pm
by sally
John Waller wrote:Not seen this book but it might be worth seeking out

Plucked, Shaved & Braided: Medieval and Renaissance Beauty and Grooming Practices 1000-1600. by Daniela Turudich
I din't think this ever made it to print, it was due out about the same time my Artifice of Beauty went to press but to the best of my knowledge it never materialised- unless its been finally printed recently :?

Re: Shaving

Posted: Fri Dec 11, 2009 6:47 pm
by Alan E
FWIW, Sally's tallow-based soap lathers well enough for shaving, using a reproduction brush based on the Mary Rose finds. No evidence that tallow soap was use, except that it works.

Re: Shaving

Posted: Fri Dec 11, 2009 7:15 pm
by Lady Cecily
I think it highly unlikely that men would shave themselves. The problem is not a razor sharp blade but a good mirror. Whilst you can have a straight razor shave without a mirror - I have watched my husband do it - he is fairly certain you couldn't learn how to shave without one.

Re: Shaving

Posted: Fri Dec 11, 2009 8:45 pm
by chrisanson
Lady Cecily wrote:I think it highly unlikely that men would shave themselves. The problem is not a razor sharp blade but a good mirror. Whilst you can have a straight razor shave without a mirror - I have watched my husband do it - he is fairly certain you couldn't learn how to shave without one.

i did, but as you know i sport a beard most of the time

Re: Shaving

Posted: Fri Dec 11, 2009 8:47 pm
by John Waller
sally wrote:
John Waller wrote:Not seen this book but it might be worth seeking out

Plucked, Shaved & Braided: Medieval and Renaissance Beauty and Grooming Practices 1000-1600. by Daniela Turudich
I din't think this ever made it to print, it was due out about the same time my Artifice of Beauty went to press but to the best of my knowledge it never materialised- unless its been finally printed recently :?

Looks like you are right. I can't find in on Abebooks.

Re: Shaving

Posted: Fri Dec 11, 2009 9:37 pm
by Colin Middleton

Re: Shaving

Posted: Fri Dec 11, 2009 10:07 pm
by Lady Cecily
chrisanson wrote:
Lady Cecily wrote:I think it highly unlikely that men would shave themselves. The problem is not a razor sharp blade but a good mirror. Whilst you can have a straight razor shave without a mirror - I have watched my husband do it - he is fairly certain you couldn't learn how to shave without one.

i did, but as you know i sport a beard most of the time
what! you learnt how to shave with cut-throat, without a mirror?

Re: Shaving

Posted: Sat Dec 12, 2009 10:03 am
by chrisanson
Lady Cecily wrote:
chrisanson wrote:
Lady Cecily wrote:I think it highly unlikely that men would shave themselves. The problem is not a razor sharp blade but a good mirror. Whilst you can have a straight razor shave without a mirror - I have watched my husband do it - he is fairly certain you couldn't learn how to shave without one.

i did, but as you know i sport a beard most of the time
what! you learnt how to shave with cut-throat, without a mirror?


well a stanly knife blade, couldnt get a cut-throat at time, never got on with electric or desposable but do quite like the cut-throat. you get a feel for it and is quite enjoyable but it is cold without a beard

Re: Shaving

Posted: Sat Dec 12, 2009 10:11 am
by Lady Cecily
chrisanson wrote:

well a stanly knife blade, couldnt get a cut-throat at time, never got on with electric or desposable but do quite like the cut-throat. you get a feel for it and is quite enjoyable but it is cold without a beard
Blimey!

Re: Shaving

Posted: Sat Dec 12, 2009 12:14 pm
by gregory23b
My grandad used a cut throat, often without a mirror, I remember him wandering around with a soapy chin scraping away.

(1414-15) Plea & Mem.in Bk.Lond.E. 120/35: John sholde fynde oille & asshen to the forsaide Thomas, suffisauntly for his sopehous. ?a1425 *MS Htrn.95 (Htrn 95) 175b/b: Þe secounde is lye, þat as summe men seien is water of sope makers oþer þe lye þat þei make þe sope wiþ alle, þe whiche y knowe not, for þei holde it wunder priuee.

?c1425 Chauliac(2) (Paris angl.25) 428/29-32: Sope forsothe is double: sope of Sarracenes, þe whiche is softe, and þe Frensche sope, þat is harde. The Sarracenes sope is made of two parties of lye and the þridde parte of oyle dolyf. Þe Frensche sope is made of þe two partyes of lye and of oon parte of schepes talowh.

Re: Shaving

Posted: Sat Dec 12, 2009 6:21 pm
by Marcus Woodhouse
According to Power and Profit most "French soap" came from Iberia and was originally Moorish (saracen) and most "Saracen soap" came from Lombardy and was originaly Turkish.

Re: Shaving

Posted: Sat Dec 12, 2009 6:48 pm
by gregory23b
There are a fair few soap recipes in English from the 15thc, so the method of making soft and hard soap had obviously traversed the English Sea, it was also imported.

Re: Shaving

Posted: Sat Dec 12, 2009 7:10 pm
by sally
We've had soap makers in Britain since something like the 12th century (Bristol of the top of my head, though that was soft common soap for textiles not fine bathing soap) and by the 15thC its moderately widespread, soap of all sorts shows up in pretty much any set of port records you dig through as well, with fine hard Castile type soaps being traded throughout the country. The question here isnt so much whether anyone with a mind and a purse could get hold of a bit of decent soap, they could if they felt the need- its whether it was common to shave with it. I'm sadly a bit behind with my research for the new book on soap, but I can't say I've got any conclusive evidence about soap and shaving in the fifteenth century at the moment.

I will of course keep an eye open for shaving soap references, I think it will warrant an appenxix of its own in the new book of not a chapter, ans there are so many references and recipes from later centuries.

Re: Shaving

Posted: Sat Dec 12, 2009 8:04 pm
by eaw458
Lady Cecily wrote:I think it highly unlikely that men would shave themselves. The problem is not a razor sharp blade but a good mirror. Whilst you can have a straight razor shave without a mirror - I have watched my husband do it - he is fairly certain you couldn't learn how to shave without one.
Here we go - yet another cliche about the middle ages has emerged. The thousands of illuminations in manuscripts showing clean shaven men prove you wrong I am afraid - I would argue with some confidence that these were not artistic licence.

Re: Shaving

Posted: Sun Dec 13, 2009 4:36 pm
by Lady Cecily
eaw458 wrote:
Lady Cecily wrote:I think it highly unlikely that men would shave themselves. The problem is not a razor sharp blade but a good mirror. Whilst you can have a straight razor shave without a mirror - I have watched my husband do it - he is fairly certain you couldn't learn how to shave without one.
Here we go - yet another cliche about the middle ages has emerged. The thousands of illuminations in manuscripts showing clean shaven men prove you wrong I am afraid - I would argue with some confidence that these were not artistic licence.
I didn't say they didn't shave but that they didn't shave themselves. It's called sitting down in a barbers shop (or with your manservant) and them shaving you.

I am very well aware that being clean shaven is normal for many men during the whole of the medieval period. Yes Gregory23b you can have a cut throat shave (that's a straight razor) without a mirror - that's what I said above. Simon shaves with one all the time now - but he says he needed a mirror to 'learn' his face first.

Re: Shaving

Posted: Sun Dec 13, 2009 4:43 pm
by gregory23b
"Here we go - yet another cliche about the middle ages has emerged. The thousands of illuminations in manuscripts showing clean shaven men prove you wrong I am afraid - I would argue with some confidence that these were not artistic licence."

You evidently do not know Lady C at all, otherwise you would not jump to a conclusion as that.

Thousands of illuminations are indeed showing clean shaven men, however, the size of those portraits are anything from a few mm to no more than an inch for the biggest images. As for clean shaven, that simply means not having a beard or only a couple of days growth.

"I would argue with some confidence that these were not artistic licence."

See above point, and consider the level of actual detail in those images, even the very best like those of Bourdichon are somewhat restricted by their scale.

Had you looked at say some Van Eyck and other Flemish painters, who painted on a much bigger scale, then you would see quite clearly that stubble is common, but would still qualify for clean shaven.

The following are not poor insignificant people, but well to do and the potential list is much longer.
http://lilimachado.files.wordpress.com/ ... ck_091.jpg

even Albergati, a cardinal has stubble on his chin.

http://www.tubaba.com/art/uploadfile/20 ... 973862.jpg

http://www.artchive.com/artchive/m/meml ... ng_man.jpg

http://www.metmuseum.org/toah/images/h2 ... 626-27.jpg

http://www.wga.hu/art/e/eyck_van/jan/02 ... lannoy.jpg

http://www.wga.hu/art/e/eyck_van/jan/02 ... carnat.jpg

http://www.wga.hu/art/a/antonell/portra_m.jpg

Oh, and had you read Lady C's actual text you would have readily understood what she was meaning with this opening statement:

"I think it highly unlikely that men would shave themselves."

She did not say men were unshaven, but believes that they do not or cannot shave themselves, a very different idea than to your rash comment. x posted with Lady C.

Re: Shaving

Posted: Mon Dec 14, 2009 9:16 am
by Marcus Woodhouse
It also seems to be an artistic convention to show older men or men in the past with beards weither they had them in real life or not.

Re: Shaving

Posted: Tue Dec 15, 2009 6:09 am
by Karen Larsdatter
Clarenceboy wrote:So what I was wondering is if anyone had any images of barbers going about their business or written documents of anything that might be useful?
A few at http://larsdatter.com/haircut.htm -- including a playing-card depicting a barber shaving another man's face and a barber by Lucas van Leyden.

Re: Shaving

Posted: Tue Dec 15, 2009 9:58 am
by Clarenceboy
Great images Karen, thanks.

Interesting that the playing card barber shop seems to be using a folding razor and nothing that looks like soap or foam on the face so one assumes its oil. The other image by Lucas van Leyden seems to show some sort of lather on the chaps face and also the razor looks like it is one solid piece and not a folding one. However the images are showing from diferent eras as well are regions so it would be tricky to make a judgement from one ot the other, but great images all the same, thanks

Re: Shaving

Posted: Mon Dec 21, 2009 12:06 pm
by oakenshield
he acually looks like hes cutting the poor fellows nose off :o