The Apothecary

Experimenti de la Signora Caterina da Furlj…
(Experiments of illustrious Madonna Caterina from Forlì…)

The whole ancient world admired Caterina for her beauty and intellect. She used to take care of her face and body aspect, and as it was quite common at that time among the noble court ladies, she used to prepare unguents and curative balms by means of herbs, animal parts, stones and dusts.

The Renaissance’s mostly used remedy was still the bloodletting but the top sold item was indeed the poisoned potion. Princes and noble ladies used to kill lovers, enemies, traitors and relatives with poison and also Caterina learned how to prepare it…

She actually created that and more… she really made alchemy experiments in order to convert metals into gold obviously invain. In Ravaldino in Forlì she had set up a vegetable garden and herbarium together with her loyal apothecary Lodovico Albertini. He eventually kept serving the Countess also during her exile years in Florence, he sent her herbs and substances also during her absence.

We owe Caterina the discovery of chloroform for the artificial sleep of the ills during surgeries and many are convinced that she is the mother of the modern beauty treatments, according to this quote from the “Nation” of 1865:

“Caterina de’ Medici (Queen of France from 1547 to 1559 .n.o.t ) tought the art of the fragrances preparation to the Ladies of Paris as she learned it from the famous Caterina from Forlì…”
It seems that she had been given the name Caterina in memory of Caterina Sforza, her ancestor, as Caterina Sforza’s son Giovanni of the Black Bands had been husband to Maria Salviati and thus had rejoined the two branches of the Medici family..

Son Giovanni of the Black Bands succeeded in preserving the recipes, in number of 471, that eventually were collected in a book published in 1933: “RICETTARIO DI BELLEZZA” (tr. the book of beauty recipes)

The recipes are simple and they seem to us almost naive, here one of them:

“to dye hair black”
Take decoction water of Lupines, put it in a bowl and let it stand five days, then wash your hair and you will have it black.

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