In 17th century Italy, a popular face-whitening liquid sold by the name
“Manna di San Nicola” was widely used in the cities Naples and Rome. Sold by Giulia Tofana from Palermo and her daughter, Aqua Tofana doubled as a cosmetic product and devotionary object and featured a picture of Saint Nicholas – hence the name – on its vials.
The liquid was particularly popular among unhappily married women, not for its face-whitening but for its poisonous properties:
Tofana’s sought-after concoction contained arsenic, lead, and quite possibly also belladonna – a muy lethal combo!
The colourless and odourless potion could easily be mixed into meals or drinks, and is believed to have killed 600 people, most of which were v. unfortunate husbands.
Miss Tofana was arrested and confessed to producing the poison, after which she and a number of her clients were executed…