Literary portraits of the beautiful woman in medieval Iberia tend to emphasize several physical features, such as long, blond hair, or light-colored and hairless skin. This study examines the specific features of the beautiful woman in several major works and genres from medieval Iberia. It also traces the rhetorical sources of these portraits to the Classical and medieval Latin traditions, whose influence is evident in other early vernacular literatures of Europe. It then analyzes several medieval cosmetic treatises in Latin and in vernacular languages that attest to medieval women's beautifying practices, such as the use of hair-dyes, depilatories, and skin-whitening creams.
The comparison of the literary and cosmetic evidence shows a canonical view of feminine beauty that encompasses different cultural areas in medieval Iberia. This view is also consistent with ancient as well as with twenty-first century conceptions of beauty. The findings suggest that the ideal of feminine beauty in medieval Iberia is not unique, but rather a manifestation of near-universal male preferences shaped by sexual selection in the course of human evolution. [. . .]
Most cosmetic treatises devote considerable space to the maintenance of well-groomed, long, and healthy hair. They also include many recipes for hair-dyes (blond and black). In Spanish literature, blond hair appears to be more typical of learned poetry and appears to be associated with nobility: "rruvios, largos cabellos / segund doncellas d’estado" (Marqués de Santillana 11-12). In the cantigas it is not mentioned, and in the Andalusian and Arabic tradition hair is black, not without exceptions (see Chapter Three).
[Claudio Da Soller. The beautiful woman in medieval Iberia: Rhetoric, cosmetics, and evolution. University of Missouri - Columbia, 2005.]
The beautiful woman in medieval Iberia: Rhetoric, cosmetics, and evolution
From a 2005 Ph.D. thesis by an Italian: