In 1256, the countess of Provence, Beatrice of Savoy, enlisted her personal physician to create a health handbook to share with her daughters. Written in French and known as the Régime du corps, this health guide would become popular and influential, with nearly seventy surviving copies made over the next two hundred years and translations in at least four other languages. In Visualizing Household Health, art historian Jennifer Borland uses the Régime to show how gender and health care converged within the medieval household.
Visualizing Household Health explores the nature of the households portrayed in the Régime and how their members interacted with professionalized medicine. Borland focuses on several illustrated versions of the manuscript that contain historiated initials depicting simple scenes related to health care, such as patients’ consultations with physicians, procedures like bloodletting, and foods and beverages recommended for good health. Borland argues that these images provide important details about the nature of women’s agency in the home—and offer highly compelling evidence that women enacted multiple types of health care. Additionally, she contends, the Régimeopens a window onto the history of medieval women as owners, patrons, and readers of books.
Interdisciplinary in scope, this book broadens notions of the medieval medical community and the role of women in medieval health care. It will be welcomed by scholars and students of women’s history, art history, book history, and the history of medicine.
Jennifer Borland is Professor of Art History and Director of the Humanities Initiative at Oklahoma State University. She is a founding member of the Material Collective and managing editor of the journal Different Visions.
1. The Visual Language of the Régime du corps
2. The Illustrated Manuscripts and Their Audiences
3. The Medical Context for the Régime du corps
4. Household Management, Status, and the Care of the Body
“Borland masterfully weaves together the methodologies of a variety of disciplines: the history of women as patrons and consumers, the history of medicine, anthropology, geography, and of course material and visual studies and art history, all under the larger umbrellas of social history and medieval studies. . . . By immersing the illuminated Régime manuscripts in this multivalent exploration, the full nature of their rich content is finally revealed.”—Tracy Chapman Hamilton, author of Pleasure and Politics at the Court of France: The Artistic Patronage of Queen Marie of Brabant (1260–1321)
“Visualizing Household Health interrogates the function and value of illumination paired with a secular text with both practical and theoretical knowledge. . . . Borland demonstrates the newest area of modern scholarly attention to the wayfinding devices that integrated the textual and visual communication of medieval knowledge.”—Jean A. Givens, author of Observation and Image-Making in Gothic Art
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