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Barber's shaving bowl, Netherlands, 1701-1750

Shaving bowls have a semicircular space for the customer to place his chin in to prevent the water and soap making a mess. They were sometimes decorated with the tools of the trade such as razors and combs – this is a particularly fine example. The owner’s name ‘Jan Maeison’ is painted on the rim. Maeison is a name from the Netherlands although this bowl is typically English in design. There is some evidence that shaving bowls may have been used to catch blood during bloodletting. This process was believed to cure a number of ailments by rebalancing the patient’s humours and so restore them to health.

Object number:

A45685

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    Glossary: hygiene

    The science of health and how to maintain it. A condition or practice which promotes good health. The definition varies widely and differs across cultures.

    Glossary: humours

    The fluids of the body whose balance is essential to well-being. They are blood, choler (yellow bile), phlegm, and melancholy (black bile). The system of the humours was closely related to the theory of the elements by the Ancient Greeks (especially Hippocrates), who were the first society to widely embrace the theory and apply it to medical practice. In Ancient Roman culture, the theory of the humours was embraced by Galen. During the neo-classical revival in western culture, the theory of the humours was a dominant form of medical practice. Its legacy in the form of activities such as blood-letting continued in England into the eighteenth century.

    Glossary: shaving bowl

    Bowl used by barber or shaver,used either to collect blood from shaving cuts, or to rest razor during pauses in shaving.

    Glossary: bloodletting

    Puncturing a vein in order to withdraw blood. A popular medical practice for over two thousand years. Bloodletting often involved withdrawing large quantities of blood in the belief that this would cure or prevent many illnesses and diseases. The practice has been abandoned for all but a few very specific conditions.