Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Medieval Housecleaning


A French lady of the 15th century sweeps a room. From the Livre des proprietes des choses, which sounds like a housekeeping manual.


Two ladies in 14th century France make a bed. Their turbaned heads and the uniform-like quality of their clothes suggest that these women are maids. From the Pelerinage de la vie humaine.

These two illustrations are rare glimpses of housecleaning in the Middle Ages. They come from The Medieval Woman: Illuminated Book of Days, by Sally Fox.

3 comments:

Wendy WaterBirde said...

WOW! Thank you so much Linda, i just adore the top picture. Do you mind if i post it?

You also really gave me food for thought on homelife and privacy in the middle ages. The crowed-all-in-common- room view of that time doesnt feel to be the whole picture to me at all, i suspect there were still plenty of homes with peace and privacy. Or at least that's the picture i have in my head. But then again im sure not a historian. Maybe i have that picture in my mind beacause what i am drawn to in the middle ages so much is the focus of so many there on living a more contemplative type life, and those living contemplative lives lived in monastories/abbeys or (one hopes) quiet homes. I do think there were quite significant oasises of quiet in the middle ages.

The dutch posts you did i keep coming back to, moved. It got me looking up more the Netherlandish artists in their religious art, which i have always loved. There really is something special in that time and place, that we can carry forward.

Thank you again for posting this picture Linda, it is such a treasure!

Peaceful Week : ) Wendy

Wendy WaterBirde said...

PS I am drawn to for example the book "Privacy and Solitude: The Medieval Discovery of Personal Space". I havent read it yet, just saw it online. The link is here
http://bookshop.blackwell.co.uk/jsp/welcome.jsp?source=rss&isbn=184725201X

and from it:

"The lord in his hall, the monk in his cloister: we often think of medieval people as living most of their lives in the constant company of others. Indeed, most people in the middle ages shared communal living space and lived most of their lives publicly. But there was also another way of living, characterized by the hermit's solitude as well as by the private apartments of the rich. By the later Middle Ages more and more men and women, including monks and nuns, aspired to enjoy time and space apart for purposes of prayer, recreation and scholarship. ..(This was) a major historical development."

Linda said...

Hi Wendy,
Thanks for letting me know about that book. Sounds fascinating. I will post more of these ladies, as it shows such a huge array of activities that women clearly participated in enough to bear illustration. You can repost the picture. No problem. I have a number of books about women in the Middle Ages, which I will get around to reading as soon as I can and then post some things. In general, they had more freedom and legal rights than women in the Renaissance, which is surprising but true.