Sean Thackrey :: Wine Maker

Sean Thackrey :: Wine Maker

Tuesday, November 24, 2015

Distinguish Trebbiano from Urine

In brief, how it is possible, and why it is important, to distinguish Trebbiano from urine.

Dr. Leonardo Fioravanti (1517-1588) a prominent Renaissance physician who spent many years learning to distinguish Trebbiano (wine) from urine, shares with us why it is important, and how it is possible, to make that distinction.

:: Molière could have done wonders with all this, and I believe it should be viewed as though he had, in full Renaissance costume, and in an opulent palace setting worthy of Palermo circa 1550.

:: In this excerpt, the author, Fioravanti explains the manner in which doctors should examine their patients, and also specifies what they must take care to avoid. He says that they should enter the patient’s room with all due gravity, seat themselves by the sickbed, examine the patient, and question him/her closely as to the progress of their illness; they should then ask for a urine sample, and should examine it diligently to ensure that it is human urine, and not a trick.

:: Fortunately, since one does not naturally think of urine as existentially tricky, if one thinks of it at all, he goes on to explain that when he first began his practice, he was called to cure a noblewoman suffering from a “painful ventosity of the body”; he entered her suite “with all possible gravity”, took the lady’s hand, examined her pulse, and asked for a urine sample. But a “a certain matron” who was present said that since this was an ailment common to women, it shouldn’t require a urine sample; however, if he would please prescribe a remedy, a sample would be ready when he returned that evening. He promptly ordered “three drams of gentian finely pulverized, in excellent wine,” which cured the patient then & there, to the amazement of all the ladies.

:: But that same matron, gossiping with the other ladies-in-waiting, said, “This doctor appears very young indeed, and while he’s done all very well on this occasion, I really don’t believe he’s already an expert in analyzing urine. By all grace I beg you to say nothing, but when he returns this evening, I’ll test him, by letting him examine a little Trebbiano wine, which is the color of urine; & we’ll see if he recognizes it.”

:: "And", Fioravanti continues, “that’s what was done. That evening, when I returned, they presented me with the ‘urine,’which was really wine; and seeing how yellow it was, I said to the ladies, ‘This urine, being as yellow as it is, signifies, according to Galen & other authorities, the coleric humor, and means that the patient suffers from anger.’ One of the ladies responded, ‘But by my faith, how could you have known? It’s the truth! That rogue of a husband of hers chases after women, gambles, and makes her so angry I marvel she’s still alive!’”

:: So having finished his examination, he left; but then of course the ladies-in-waiting were convulsed with laughter, and “the matter being between women, who are all or mostly all gossips,” (this according to Fioravanti), it was soon a story about town, and he leaves the reader to imagine how he felt, being scorned in this manner.

:: He responded by ordering that ten or so urinals be bought for his household, and every morning he had everyone in the household urinate, so that he could see the differences, as he expresses it, between urine, and urine. Then he ordered urine brought in from dogs, donkeys, horses, mules, and other animals, and made every examination of these samples it was possible to make, in order never again to be deceived in the matter of urine; “and I made an extraordinary study of this matter, and appropriately so; because I have since philosophised in various and diverse parts of the world, & many times I’ve found myself in some city, where tricksters have wanted to test me by showing me the urine of horses, or liqueurs, wine, vinegar, and similar substances, but their game was lost, because it was immediately & shrewdly found out, and never has anyone succeeded in becoming other than the object of ridicule him self, and the laugh has been on him ...”
(in, Leonardo Fioravanti, De Capricci Medicinale, Venice, 1564; link to the original text is, http://wine-maker.net/T…/Library_pdf.files/Fioravanti-R2.pdf)

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