The group of three females represent The Three Graces – beauty, joy and charm. They are dressed in diaphanous white with their hands joined in a dance. Two of the women wear necklaces in the Medici colors. Cupid has an arrow aimed at the dancing women. The central figure of the Graces, who has turned her back to the scene is checking out Mercury, unconcerned by the threat represented by Cupid.
Notice that the women are blondes of various shades. Blonde hair with high foreheads was the preferred look during the Middle Ages. Many women resorted to shaving their foreheads to give the appearance of being higher. The blonde hair was achieved in many ways. Trotula was an 11th century female physician who attended the University of Salerno (Italy). Three treatises on women’s health care are attributed to her. While little is known about her, it is certain that the U of Salerno trained and graduated female physicians. Here’s one of the methods for lightening hair from The Trotula:
For coloring the hair so that it is golden. Take the exterior shell of a walnut and the bark of the tree itself, and cook them in water, and with this water mix alum and oak apples, and with these mixed things you will smear the head (having first washed it) placing upon the hair leaves and tying them with strings for two days; you will be able to color [the hair]. And comb the head so that whatever adheres to the hair as excess comes off. Then place a coloring which is made from oriental crocus, dragon’s blood, and henna (whose larger part has been mixed with a decoction of brazilwood ) and thus let the woman remain for three days, and on the fourth day let her be washed with hot water, and never will [this coloring ] be removed easily.
Tomorrow, Meet Flora. Rita Bay