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Housewife's Rich Cabinet
How to Make a Young Face Exceedingly Beautiful

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How to Make a Young Face Exceedingly Beautiful

Or an Old Face Tolerable

Charles Sorel. The extravagant shepherd. London, 1654.

The ideal of feminine beauty in the 17th century demanded that women have the characteristics that are literally depicted in this illustration from Charles Sorel's The Extravagant Sheperd (London, 1654): teeth like pearls, eyes that sparkle like the sun, eyebrows arched like Cupid's bow, cheeks a-bloom with roses, and breasts like little globes or, as one writer put it, "little worlds of beauty."

In reality, personal allure may have suffered in an age when baths were infrequent and sanitation almost nonexistent. Women young and old made pomanders and sweet bags and fumigated their clothes presses with herbal scents. They perfumed gloves and, when their breath smelled of "old Saturn's sweaty socks," they concocted breath fresheners to disguise the odor of rotting teeth. A sweet-smelling pomander worn about the neck or dangled from the waist did more than perfume the "pestiferous and corrupt air." Its fragrance could entice many a swain. "Pomander bracelets...take men prisoners, for none can have the courage to resist.



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Walther Hermann Ryff. Confect Buch. Frankfurt, 1563 (Detail)

Additional Information

In her manuscript cookbook,  Ann Goodenough offers some suggestions on how to make a sweet bag like the ones illustrated above.


To Make a Sweet Bag:


"Take 2 and 1/2 handfuls of rosemary, lemon thyme, mastic thyme, and sweet marjoram. Of earth [take] 2 handfuls, 1 handful of bay leaves, [and] 1 and 1/2 handful of lavender. All these must be mingled together.... Put to them twice as many roses as these quantities. Then take 1 pound of damask powder, 1 pound of orris powder, and 1 pound  of rhodium powderm and 1/2 pound of cypress roots beaten. All these must be mingled together with the herbs and so put into the bags."


From Ann Goodenough, Cookery book. Manuscript, ca. 1700-1775.

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