Friday, November 24, 2017

Nero su nero - Leonardo Sciascia

Un estratto dall'opera Nero su nero (1979) di Leonardo Sciascia. Versione italiana originale.


(Leonardo Sciascia)

Nella raccolta del Pitrè, i proverbi che consigliano diffidenza verso gli uomini e gli animali di pelo rosso sono questi (che traduciamo): «Rosso è malo pelo»; «Rosso, faccia di Giuda»; «Rosso maligno»; «Rossi, né porci né gatti» (e tanto meno uomini e donne, si capisce); «Di pelo rosso, né gatti né cani»; «Se a casa animali hai da tenere, / di pelo rosso né porci né cani»; «Due furono i rossi fedeli: Gesù Cristo e la vitella di Sorrento». Pitrè annota: «Nella tradizione popolare Gesù Cristo era di pelo che tirava al rosso», ma non dice nulla della vitella di Sorrento associata a Cristo nella fedeltà.

Si tratta di una vitella leggendaria o di una vitella di razza particolare, che si riteneva proveniente da Sorrento? Aggiunge poi una strofetta, con la quale i fanciulli palermitani usavano motteggiare i loro compagni dai capelli rossi: «Rosso maligno / attaccati al legno / tieniti forte / che passa la morte»; e riporta uguali o corrispondenti proverbi napoletani, sardi, toscani, veneti, lombardi e quello medioevale, «Si ruber est fidelis, diabolus est in coelis», che pone l'impossibile fedeltà dei rossi e nemmeno consente l'eccezione di Gesù Cristo e della vitella di Sorrento. Peraltro Carducci, segnando come nefasta l'ascesa di Cristo al Campidoglio, ne ricordò le «rosse chiome»: come stigma, rifacendosi al sentire popolare, di un uomo che non poteva essere che nefasto.

«Omu signaliatu, guardatinni» dice ancora un proverbio siciliano: uomo segnato da un difetto fisico naturale, guardatene. Si crede cioè che la natura dia i suoi stigmi, a distinguere i buoni dai malvagi, così come una volta i tribunali condannavano i delinquenti al marchio sulla fronte, all'amputazione della mano, al taglio delle orecchie o del naso. Solo che la malvagità dei segnati da un difetto naturale è potenziale e non attuale; e se e quando si fa attuale, si ha come una verifica, una conferma. Ma i capelli rossi non sono un difetto; e dunque l'avversione di cui sono oggetto bisogna considerarla una sorta di superstizione razzistica dei popoli mediterranei, d'altra parte mai pervenuti a forme di razzismo cosciente, teorizzato, «scientifico».

«Malpelo si chiamava così perché aveva i capelli rossi: ed aveva i capelli rossi perché era un ragazzo malizioso e cattivo, che prometteva di riescire un fior di birbone...». Aveva i capelli rossi perché era cattivo; non era cattivo, diventato cattivo, a causa dei capelli rossi - cioè perché considerato segnato, stigmatizzato, e quindi allontanato e confinato, dai bruni tra i quali si era trovato a nascere e a vivere e che conferivano a una vicenda genetica, tra loro sparutamente insorgente, il carattere di una presenza e rivelazione del male. Che è un po' lo stesso discorso che, diceva Shaw, si fa per i negri: li si costringe a fare i lustrascarpe, e poi si dimostra la loro inferiorità col fatto che non sanno fare altro che i lustrascarpe. Si irride e si maltratta un ragazzo perché ha i capelli rossi; e quando il ragazzo accumula sufficiente rancore, si avvilisce e incattivisce, si vendica come può - ecco la dimostrazione che i rossi sono sempre e naturalmente cattivi.

«Come al solito, il signor Lepic vuota il carniere sul tavolo. Due pernici. Félix, il fratello maggiore, le segna su una lavagnetta appesa al muro. È il suo compito. Ciascuno dei ragazzi ha il proprio. La sorella Ernestine scortica e spenna la selvaggina. Quanto a Pel di carota, egli è specialmente incaricato di finire gli animali feriti. Deve questo privilegio alla ben conosciuta durezza del suo arido cuore». L'orrore che Pel di carota ha per questo suo compito, il ribrezzo, fa sì che egli sia maldestro e atrocemente prolunghi l'agonia delle pernici. Ma la signora Lepic, sua madre: «Non fare la sensitiva; per ora stai assaporando la tua gioia». A operazione ultimata, Félix ed Ernestine gridano: «Oh che boia! che boia!»; e il signor Lepic esce disgustato. Non meno disgustata, e ancora una volta avendo avuto prova del sadismo di quel suo figlio dai capelli rossi, la signora Lepic dice: «Guarda come le ha conciate!».

Che Jules Renard abbia raccontato in Poil de carotte la storia della sua infanzia, è risaputo - benché manchi, e forse anche in Francia, uno studio che affronti l'opera narrativa (non soltanto Poil de carotte, ma anche Les cloportes) al Diario, alla corrispondenza, ai documenti e alle testimonianze sulla vita dello scrittore. Perché ad un certo punto, leggendo Renard, per il mondo familiare che segnò di incancellabile trauma la sua vita, viene una sorta di pietà o di ansietà di giustizia; o quanto meno il desiderio di vedere le cose per come oggettivamente stavano - sempre, beninteso, con quel tanto di approssimativo e di incerto che è in ogni tentativo di ricostruire non solo le cose lontane ma quelle stesse di cui siamo stati o siamo testimoni.

Vogliamo cioè dire che la domanda: possibile che le cose stessero effettivamente così?, spesso, leggendo il Diario, ci assale. E, di conseguenza, il dubbio che Renard abbia ingigantito e deformato, che la sua esasperata sensibilità e visionaria, la sua «diversità», abbiano ritratto come anormale e feroce una situazione umana e familiare indubbiamente dura ma del tutto normale nel mondo contadino, nella Francia rurale di un secolo addietro. E c'è da sospettare che Poil de carotte, «un libro di cui si può davvero dire che non è un regalo da fare alla propria famiglia», come Renard scriveva a sua sorella Amébe, abbia come catalizzato una immensa tragedia familiare: il suicidio del padre, l'immatura fine del fratello, il più che probabile suicidio della madre.

Comunque, certo è che mai riconosciuto dai suoi «diverso» per quel che aveva dentro di sensibilità e di pensieri, di poesia, di bisogno d'amore, Renard fu subito riconosciuto e relegato nella «diversità» dei capelli color carota, nel «malpelo». E una situazione simile, anche se rovesciata in un di più di vezzeggiamenti e di cure nell'ambito familiare, in una più blanda e scherzosa irrisione fuori, è forse nel primo germe della novella di Verga Rosso Malpelo. Così totalmente oggettiva, così «impersonale»: eppure la «diversità» atroce di Malpelo deve in qualche modo discendere da quella del bambino dai capelli rossi che Verga era stato. E diciamo era stato poiché, come qui accade, era di quei rossi che con gli anni cominciano a dare nel castano, e infine lo diventano del tutto. Falsi castani o falsi rossi, come indifferentemente si dicono. A cinquant’anni, «è un bell'uomo elegante, dai folti capelli grigi e dai baffi ancora castagni» (Ojetti), ma a venti era alto, magro, delicato, gracile - e rosso (dalle fotografie giovanili si direbbe biondo).

Quasi nessuno ci ha fatto caso. Di un Verga rosso ci parlò parecchi anni fa un vecchio catanese che lo conobbe; e ne parla D.H. Lawrence - «con grandi baffi rossi» - in quel saggio che doveva fare da introduzione alla versione in inglese del Mastro don Gesualdo. A parte il dettaglio dei baffi: la cosa più bella che sia mai stata scritta su Verga.

Excerpt from "Nero su nero" by Leonardo Sciascia

[The following is an excerpt from a work by the Italian writer Leonardo Sciascia. The work is titled Nero su nero and was published in 1979. In the few short passages he discusses the topic of red hair. (In the next post I'll publish the original Italian. This English translation was provided by Emanuela).

The Pitrè mentioned at the beginning is the Italian folklorist Giuseppe Pitrè. Also referenced are the stories Rosso Malpelo and its author Giovanna Verga (who we've mentioned on this blog before) and Poil de carotte by Jules Renard. Both stories had red hair as their focal point.]





Leonardo Sciascia


Excerpt from Nero su nero


In Pitrè’s collection proverbs suggesting mistrust towards humans and animals with red hair are (translated from dialect): “Red is bad hair”, “Red, Judas face”, “Evil red”, “Red, neither pigs, nor cats” (let alone men and women, obviously), “Of red hair, neither cats, nor dogs”, “If you need to keep animals at home, of red hair neither pigs, nor dogs”, “Two reds were faithful: Jesus Christ and the heifer from Sorrento”. Pitrè writes: “According to popular tradition, Jesus Christ’s hair tended to red”, but he didn’t say anything about the heifer from Sorrento linked to Christ for its faithfulness.

Was it a legendary heifer or a heifer of a particular breed, allegedly coming from Sorrento? Then he adds a brief strophe kids from Palermo used to mock their red-haired peers with: “Evil red / cling to the wood / hold on strongly / for death is passing through”. He also reports similar or equivalent proverbs from Naples, Sardinia, Tuscany, Veneto and Lombardy, and the medieval one “Si ruber est fidelis, diabolus est in coelis” (If the redhead is faithful, the devil is in heaven), stating the impossible faithfulness of redheads and not even allowing the exceptions of Jesus Christ and the heifer from Sorrento. Moreover Carducci, highlighting Christ’s ascent to the Capitol as ominous, recalled His “red mane”: as the stigma, harking back to popular tradition, of a man who could only be ominous.

“Omu signaliatu, guardatinni”, says a Sicilian proverb: look out for the man marked with a natural physical flaw. It is commonly believed that nature gives its stigmas to tell the good from the bad, just like, in the past, courts sentenced criminals to be marked on their forehead or to the amputation of their hand, nose or ears. However, the wickedness of those marked by a natural flaw is potential, not actual, and if and when it becomes actual we have a verification, a confirmation. Red hair is not a flaw, though, so the aversion towards it is to be considered a sort of racist superstition of Mediterranean peoples, who, after all, never achieved forms of conscious, theorised, “scientific” racism.

“He was called Malpelo because he had red hair, and he had red hair because he was a mean and bad boy, who promised to turn into a first-rate scoundrel…”. He had red hair because he was mean; he was not mean, turned mean, because of his red hair. That is, because he was considered marked, stigmatised, and therefore pushed away and isolated by the browns among whom he happened to be born and living, and who conferred to a genetic incident, very rare among them, the feature of a presence and a revelation of evil. In a way, it’s the same thing we say about blacks, according to Shaw: we make them work as bootblacks and then we prove their inferiority by saying they cannot do anything but bootblacking. We laugh at and mistreat a boy because he has red hair, and when the boy builds up enough rancour, saddens, turns nasty and takes revenge, here’s the evidence that redheads are always and naturally evil.

“As usual, Mr. Lepic empties the game bag on the table. Two partridges. Félix, the eldest brother, puts them on a small blackboard on the wall. It’s his assignment. The sister, Ernestine, grazes and plucks the game. As for Poil de carotte, his special assignment is ending the wounded animals. He owes this privilege to the well-known hardness of his cold heart.”  The horror, the repugnance he feels for this task causes him to be clumsy and to prolong the agony of the partridges. But Mrs. Lepic, his mother says: “Don’t be sensitive, you’re savouring your joy”. Once finished, Félix and Ernestine cry out: “Oh what an executioner! What an executioner!”, and Mr. Lepic leaves in disgust. Equally disgusted, having received one more time the evidence of her red-haired son’s sadism, Mrs. Lepic says: “Look at how he thrashed them!”.

It is well know that Jules Renard told, in Poil de carotte, the story of his childhood, although it’s lacking, maybe even in France, a study comparing his narrative works (not only Poil de carotte, but also Les clopartes) with his Diary, his correspondence, his papers and the records on the writer’s life. Because at one point, reading Renard, you feel a sort of pity or a desire of justice for that world that marked his life with an indelible trauma. Or at least the desire to see things as they objectively were, always, of course, with the approximation and the uncertainty which are in every attempt to reconstruct not only faraway things, but also the ones we witnessed or witness.

What I want to say is that, reading the Diary, a question hits us: were things really that way? And along with the question, the doubt that Renard exaggerated and distorted, and that his heightened and day-dreamer sensitivity, his “diversity” depicted as abnormal and cruel, a human and domestic situation undoubtedly hard but completely normal in the rustic world, in the rural France of a century before. And we may suspect that Poil de carotte, “a book of which you can say it’s not a present to be given to your own family” (as Renard wrote his sister Amébe), has catalysed an enormous family tragedy: the father’s suicide, the brother’s premature death, the mother’s probable suicide.

Not recognised as “different” for his sensitivity, his inner thoughts, poetry and need of love, Renard was quickly recognised and confined to the “diversity” of carrot hair, to “malpelo”. And a similar situation, although reversed in more endearment and cure within the family and less mocking outside, is maybe the first germ of Verga’s short story Rosso Malpelo. It’s very objective, very “impersonal”, yet Malpelo’s terrible “diversity” must in some way have came from the red-haired child Verga had been. And I say “had been” because, as it happens, he was one of those redheads who, over the years, starts turning chestnut and eventually becomes one. Fake chestnuts, or fake reds, as indifferently they are called. At fifty, “he is a handsome and elegant man, with thick grey hair and a still chestnut moustache” (Ugo Ojetti), but at twenty he was tall, lean, delicate, slender… and red (although in juvenile photographs he looks blond).

Nearly no-one noticed it. Of a red-haired Verga talked many years ago an old man from Catania who knew him; and talks D. H. Lawrence – “with a big red moustache” – in the essay meant to be the introduction of the English version of Mastro don Gesualdo. Apart from the detail of the moustache, it is the most beautiful thing ever written about Verga.

Sunday, November 12, 2017

Great Art: Part 2

Some more great art - this time paintings.


Death of Marat by Edvard Munch


Salome by Lovis Corinth


(Gertrud Eysoldt as) Salome also by Lovis Corinth


Hope I - Gustav Klimt


Nuda Veritas by Gustav Klimt

Postcards and Pin-Ups

Some more great artwork courtesy of Emanuela.


Postcard with a redhead drinking champagne.


1901 postcard. Girls dancing around a peach tree.


Three Eves.
From left to right by L. Lévy-Dhurmer, Lorenzo Alessandri and Grien.



Both the above are by the artist Boris Vallejo.


Flirt cover.



The two above are pin-ups by Olivia de Berardinis.



And finally a couple of adverts :)

Monday, October 30, 2017

Red-Haired Artwork Miscellany

Some very beautiful and interesting images featuring red hair today courtesy of Emanuela.

First up some images by the French artist Henri Gervex (1852 - 1929).



Femme Resuse a la Toilette


La Toilette


Parisina en su Toilette

Next up a painting from the German painter Heinrich Lossow (1843 - 1897).


Leda and the Swan


The following beautiful image is by the artist Lucien Levy-Dhurmer (1865 - 1953).



Gust of Wind


Now we have a vintage advertisement featuring a redhead by the Italian illustrator Gino Boccasile (1901 - 1952).



I'll finish with these last two images which are both fascinating and bizarre.


La Tentation de Saint Antoine - Felicien Rops

And lastly this one.



Friday, July 14, 2017

Red Hair in Adverts: Update 14/07/17

Just a short post to keep track of the red hair in advertisements theme. Since my last post on the topic the trend has continued unabated. So much so that it would be tedious to list every single example I've noticed. I'll share a few below though.

The following two come from advertisements for Tesco.



I think this next one was from an advert I noticed for Marks & Spencer if I recall correctly.





This next, quite beautiful lady I think, appeared in an advert for Colgate toothpaste.


It really does seem like this is a definite thing now. The token redhead is now as ubiquitous in adverts as the token black person. This is most surely a good thing ..if not a little weird for redheads that aren't quite used to seeing so many of their kind up on TV screens.

Just to show this is not entirely modern though I did come across the following classy advert on Pinterest a few weeks back.



Thursday, June 1, 2017

Redhead Facebook Page :)

If you've just read the last article you may now be aware that there's a Facebook page to catalogue the multitude of famous redheads from throughout history. It can be reached via the following link;

https://www.facebook.com/FamousRedheads/



The Past Prejudice Against Red Hair: What's Its Origin?

[The following article is the work Emanuela, who is posting her thoughts on the possible origin of the seemingly universal prejudice against red hair.]

When I first became interested in red hair, I thought the origin of past prejudice against it was its rarity. At least, that’s what I read on websites and in books on the subject. Later on, however, I began questioning this idea. It’s true, red hair is rare, but not so rare.

For example, I live in a small town (about 5000 inhabitants), in central Italy (in Italy, only a rough 0,6% of the population has red hair). Here in my town there are at least 10/12 redheads I know of. This means that, if you are lucky, you can meet one or two of us while strolling down the main road or going to the market. I remember that, when I was younger and used to go out for a walk with my friends, I would often meet a red-haired girl who looked very much like me (although she was taller). And when I was a child, there was another red-haired little girl not far from my granny’s house. And this is Italy. In countries like the UK and Ireland meeting a redhead should be quite common, today like yesterday. If you see a certain thing with a certain regularity, this thing is not rare, it's just unusual.

Besides, why should something rare, or uncommon, or unusual be considered evil? In Italy, for example, green and blue eyes too are unusual, but I’m not aware of past prejudice against them. However, if you read these proverbs;

http://redhairmyths.blogspot.it/2015/05/italian-sayings-and-proverbs-about-red.html

Or if you read the beginning of the Italian short story Rosso Malpelo, you clearly see that red-haired people where considered almost the epitome of evil.

http://redhairmyths.blogspot.it/2015/04/rosso-malpelo-evil-hair.html 

We have this idea that, in the past, people were so stupid, ignorant and narrow-minded that they hated and mistrusted everything out of the ordinary. I don’t believe that and I don’t have this low opinion of past generations. On the contrary, I believe that behind our actions there’s always a reason, now as well as in the past, although often, with the passage of the time, reasons are forgotten.

Another explanation I happened to read is that the prejudice against red hair was due to the prejudice against the Irish and the Scots, but obviously this applies only to Great Britain and not to rest of the world.

One day, I was reflecting on my ever-growing list of famous redheads in history. Currently there are a little bit more than 300 names (we are posting all of them on our Facebook page https://www.facebook.com/FamousRedheads/ ), and most of them belong to two categories: sovereigns and aristocrats. They come not only from the UK and northern Europe, but also from southern Europe and from Muslim rulers. I also noticed that often, if the sovereign didn't have red hair, someone in his/her family (a sibling or a parent) had it. That’s when an idea dawned on me.

In the past (for reasons we still have to investigate), red hair was particularly common among royals and aristocrats, and that’s the reason why people mistrusted it: because they identified it with people of power, and people of power have always been perceived as oppressors.

This could also be the reason why, on the contrary, more educated people loved red hair. Painters, for example, usually worked for rich patrons, and painters have always represented red hair in their works, long before the Pre-Raphaelites.

Then, over the centuries, red hair began to spread among common people as well, who would keep seeing them as something negative.

Tuesday, May 9, 2017

Red Hair in the Works of George Orwell

I recently finished reading George Orwell's famed novel 1984 - a quite brilliant, but somewhat frightening work.



Anyway, towards the end of the book there was a passing reference to red hair. The reference was quite inconsequential, with red hair simply being used in passing to make a general point about the particulars of the Newspeak language which is a staple of the book.
For example, All mans are equal was a possible Newspeak sentence, but only in the same sense in which All men are redhaired is a possible Oldspeak sentence.
No doubt an odd sentence to anyone who hasn't read the book.

I was quite pleased to find a mention of red hair in such an important work of fiction, even if it was an arbitrary one, and it inspired me to look for mentions of red hair in his other works.

I found a few. The first one comes in the work The Road to Wigan Pier. In the book he charts the appalling living conditions of the working class people living in the industrialised north of England. In one passage he describes a sight he encountered.
There are scenes that stand out vividly in my memory. The almost bare living-room of a cottage in a little mining village, where the whole family was out of work and everyone seemed to be underfed; and the big family of grown-up sons and daughters sprawling aimlessly about, all strangely alike with red hair, splendid bones, and pinched faces ruined by malnutrition and idleness; and one tall son sitting by the fire-place, too listless even to notice the entry of a stranger, and slowly peeling a sticky sock from a bare foot.
The second mention comes in his work Down and Out in Paris and London. In Chapter 3 he describes his experiences of poverty whilst living in Paris.
...I used to sell a few of my clothes, smuggling them out of the hotel in small packets and taking them to a secondhand shop in the rue de la Montagne St Geneviève. The shopman was a red-haired Jew, an extraordinary disagreeable man, who used to fall into furious rages at the sight of a client. From his manner one would have supposed that we had done him some injury by coming to him. ‘Merde!’ he used to shout, ‘you here again? What do you think this is? A soup kitchen?’ And he paid incredibly low prices.
This is interesting as it can be taken as another account of a red-haired Jewish figure in literature. Although the book is a real life account and not a work of fiction it does fall into the habit of portraying a red-haired Jewish character in a familiar unflattering light. Complete with disagreeable manners and an interest in financial gain.

It's not very common these days to encounter red-haired Jewish people, so this encounter with a red-haired Jewish shopkeep seems like quite an unfamiliar scenario to the eyes of any modern reader. (Though the old-fashioned role of the shopkeep in general has somewhat went extinct in our modern age of high street chains.)

One wonders just how different population demographics were in previous times. Were things quite so different? Or was Orwell maybe taking liberties with the truth?

It'll be interesting to see if any further references to red hair pop up in his other works.

Friday, May 5, 2017

Hairy Magdalene - Red Hair, Sasquatch Style

A common trope on here is that Mary Magdalene had red hair, and we're used to seeing images such as the one below showing the penitent Mary with long flowing reddish hair covering her modesty.


Penitent Mary Magdalene by Francesco Gessi

These images tap into the medieval legend that Mary spent a period of time living as a hermit in repentance of her life of sin. Her story was often confused and conflated with that of Mary of Egypt - a 4th century penitent Mary who was said to have spent time living as a hermit in the desert, where her clothes wore out and she was forced to live naked with nothing but her hair to cover her.

Later depictions of the Penitent Mary generally show her nakedness covered by her long flowing hair, however, earlier depictions often show her covered with thick body hair o_O - generally looking not unlike a Bigfoot or Sasquatch. It's quite an odd tradition, and quite out of keeping with the view we generally have of Mary.

Some of these depictions can be seen below. Some, quite fittingly for this blog, show her with reddish hair, in others it's more of a blond or brownish colour.


Mary Magdalene Raised by Angels (Gdansk) - circa 1430.


A carved depiction of Mary Magdalene


Santa Maria Magdalena


St. Mary Magdalene circa 1385-1390


The Ascension of Mary Magdalene by Antonio Vivarini

The carved image in particular is reminiscent of the wodewose or wild man carvings that are often seen on medieval churches.

I'll finish with a more traditional image of Mary Magdalene which I came across whilst looking into this. I think this one looks quite cool.


Saint Mary Magdalene


Thursday, May 4, 2017

The Red-Haired Bianca and Six of Her Children - Lavinia Fontana (1552 - 1614)

I think I'll finish today's series of posts with the following painting. It's by the painter Lavinia Fontana, said to be the first female artist to work out in the male-dominated art world outside of a court or convent. The painting shows Bianca degli Utili Maselli along with six of her children. They all look decidedly redheaded, even the dog looks a little ginger :)


Red Hair & The Red Knight

Interestingly red hair pops up in relation to the medieval Parzival romance, written by the poet Wolfram von Eschenbach. Perhaps unsurprisingly in comes in the form of the Red Knight, a prominent character in the epic.

All dazzling red was his armour, the eye from its glow gleamed red:
Red was his horse swift-footed, and the plumes that should deck his head,
Of samite red its covering, redder than flame his shield;
Fair-fashioned and red his surcoat; and the spear that his hand would wield
Was red, yea, the shaft and the iron; and red at the knight's desire
Was his sword, yet the blade's fair keenness was not dimmed by the raging fire.
And the King of Cumberland, stately, in his mailed hand did hold
A goblet, with skill engraven, and wrought of the good red gold-
From the Table Round he had reft it - All red was his shining hair
Yet white was his skin...
The Ninth Century and the Holy Grail

In the book Parzival A Knightly Epic Volume 1 (of 2) (English Edition) this redness of hair and its possible relation to the Angevin royal line is commented upon (we've mentioned before on this blog the fact that many of the Plantagenet royals were said to have had red hair);
Red hair was a distinguishing characteristic of the Angevin Counts. Fulk I. derived his name of Rufus from this peculiarity, which was inherited by many of his descendants, among them Fulk V., his son Geoffrey Plantagenet, and his grandson Henry Fitz-Empress. The writer of the Parzival strongly insists on Ither's red hair [Ither von Gahevies was the name of the Red Knight].
Whilst looking into this I also came across another interesting mention of red hair. In the book The Grail Legend it mentions a tale concerning the apostle Thomas;
Another legend which was widely known and very popular in those days and which contained a similar description of a wonderful temple palace was that of Prester John which bore many resemblances to the story of Alexander. In it the temple-tomb in India where Thomas the Apostle was buried is described as a magnificent palace of gold and precious stones, illuminated by two carbuncles. The Apostle himself, with red hair and beard, lay in the tomb uncorrupted and as fresh in appearance as if he were asleep, occasionally moving his hand when devout worshippers brought offerings.

The Red-Haired Arthur Campbell

A long, long time ago I shared the following little piece of information about the peculiar frequency of red hair amidst the Virginians during the days of the American Revolution.
"Red hair was another peculiarity of the Virginians. One who saw the Virginia troops pass through Petersburg on their way to join the army of Greene, told my informant that two-thirds of the officers had red hair. Jefferson, Campbell, the hero of King's Mountain, Arthur Campbell, John Taylor of Caroline, many of the valiant race of Green, had red hair."
http://www.themythsandhistoryofredhair.co.uk/redhairinamerica.html

Anyway, we now have some confirmation that another one of those mentioned in this passage was indeed a redhead. Arthur Campbell is described as thus in the following work;
Physically he seems to have been most attractive. He had red hair, stood nearly six feet tall, and walked erect.
https://www.jstor.org/stable/4248589?seq=1#page_scan_tab_contents

Campbell was a soldier as well as a member of the Virginia House of Delegates. Campbell County, Tennessee was named after him.

We also have a reference to red-haired Irish soldiers that fought in the US-Mexican War which may be worth sharing here. From the following webpage (http://www.irlandeses.org/1003racine.htm) it states;
Mexicans fondly recall the famous Saint Patrick’s Battalion (known as the Batallón San Patricio), which fought in five major battles during the United States-Mexican War (1846-1848), and whose experiences have gone on to inspire romantic novels, films, songs, poems and, more recently, serious historical scholarship. The unit began as a small group called the San Patricio Company, jokingly called the ‘Red Guards’ or colorados, a reference to their red hair.

Malcolm X and Redd Foxx

Malcolm X is quite famous for having reddish hair and often gets mentioned in the lists of famous redheads that appear online. He was nicknamed "Detroit Red" because of it.


What I wasn't aware of was that his friend the American comedian Redd Foxx was likewise red-haired.


Wikipedia states;
In the 1940s, he was an associate of Malcolm Little, later known as Malcolm X. In Malcolm's autobiography, Foxx is referred to as "Chicago Red, the funniest dishwasher on this earth." He earned the nickname because of his reddish hair and complexion.

Savonarola, Marat and Blake

A few miscellaneous redheads now.

This first one is an interesting one if true; Girolamo Savonarola.


Savonarola was the Italian friar who inspired the destruction of secular art and cultural objects (the famed bonfires of the vanities) with his prophetic preaching.

The book; A Crown of Fire, gives the following description of him;
We are now in the summer of 1472. Girolamo is twenty years of age. From this time we have a somewhat sketchy but not wholly inadequate descriptive portrait of the young man. It is by one of his contempories, Francesco Pico della Mirandola, the uncle of the great humanist.
Pico shows Girolamo to have been a person of average height. He had a habit of walking very erect, his head and shoulders thrown back, and vigorously swinging his arms. He was of a genial disposition, of ready wit and even jocose at times. His eyelashes were of a peculiar color, ruddy, dark orange-like, but much lighter than his eyebrows. He wore his dark red hair in curls falling to his shoulders. He had a strong aquiline nose, a large mouth, and a slightly receding forehead.
Moving forward in time to revolutionary France we also have the radical journalist Jean-Paul Marat. Pictured below in the now iconic painting The Death of Marat.



The references to him having red hair are a little tentative. The first is from a web article that asks;

Did he have red hair, as well as Carlyle alludes to him as "red-headed?"
http://prabook.com/web/person-view.html?profileId=1344181

The second comes in a book titled Killer Doctors: The Ultimate Betrayal of Trust. It contains the following description;
By the age of 16 Marat had reached his full adult height of precisely five feet and he was slight of build to boot. Jean-Paul had a nose like the beak of a hawk, was cross-eyed, had a mouth to match his nose and a shock of red hair that would make him instantly recognisable in the years ahead.
The final possible redhead to add to this short list is the poet and painter William Blake. The reference to him possibly having red hair coming in the book William Blake: A New Kind of Man.
To judge from his later physique, Blake must have been a thick-set, tough little boy with ruddy limbs, a broad face, snub nose and a shock of golden-red hair.

This seems a little bit like guess work, but I've seen him mentioned in lists of red-haired people elsewhere online so it may be the case.


Abstinence sows sand all over
The ruddy limbs & flaming hair
But Desire Gratified
Plants fruits & beauty there.

Red-Haired Russians & Eastern Europeans

Thanks to Emanuela's recent sleuthing we now have quite a few more redheads to add to our ever-growing list. I'll list the Russian and Eastern European ones here.

The first one is quite an interesting one; Helena Petrovna Blavatsky.


I mentioned how references to red hair pop up in some of her works in an earlier post (see; red-hair-in-works-of-helena-petrovna). Now it seems that she herself may have had red hair.

The following webpage contains a quote from Henry Steel Olcott (co-founder of the Theosophical Society) that describes Blavatsky's appearance.
"From the very beginning my vision was deceived by the red garibaldiс chlamys, which H. P. B. was wearing instead of a shirt. She presented a sharp contrast to the darkness of everything, which surrounded her… Her hair was red, soft, like a silk, and wavy, like Cotswold lambs’ wool."
http://sirius-eng.net/liki/blavatskaia.htm

A book titled The Archetypal Feminine in the Mystery Stream of Humanity also describes her as being red-haired.
"..she travelled all over the world, a beautiful young girl with red hair, either alone or with her sister."
Quite interesting.

Another Russian to add to the list is the novelist Andrei Bely. In the book The Grove Book of Operas the following is stated;
"Andrey Bely (known for, among other things, his brilliant red hair)."
Another redhead is the Soviet composer Sergei Prokofiev. Born in what is now eastern Ukraine he was said to have had "fiery-red hair".

(See the following article; http://www.interlude.hk/front/old-flames-burn-hottestsergei-prokofiev-eleonora-damskaya)

The Polish composer Ignacy Jan Paderewski was also a redhead, as can be seen from the following portrait;


The following passage gives quite a vivid description of him;
Why was he so popular? One reason was his magnificent physical appearance. His long, red hair inspired admiration and awe. The term "long haired music" may have originated with him.
Many musicians tried to emulate him, wearing the familiar top hat, long coat and long hair. Candies, toys and soaps were designed with him in mind. One Christmas toy was that of a little man with a black frock coat, white bow tie and a huge head of flame-colored hair sitting at a piano. At the turn of a screw the little man's hands rushed up and down the keyboard while his head shook violently.
http://pmc.usc.edu/composer/paderewski.html

Another who could maybe be added to the list is Anton Chekhov. An online article (for which the link is now broken) described his hair as "red-brown". Though it may be a little bit of a stretch to claim him as a redhead based on such a vague description.

Wednesday, May 3, 2017

Red Hair and Jewishness

Some new posts. First in a good while now. Hopefully I'll be able to rattle off quite a few over the next day or so as there's a fair bit of new information :)

First up, I was made aware of the following article concerning red hair and Jewishness. A theme we've touched upon quite a few times on this blog before.

http://www.judaismandscience.com/ginger-jews/

It's quite a comprehensive and well-researched article. Definitely well worth reading. It also echoes my own sentiments in regards the importance of not attaching too much importance to red hair or other superficial genetic traits.
"What the percentage of red-headed Jews is today is not at all clear. What is clearer and more important is that Jews come in all shapes and all sizes and all shades, with different aptitudes, attitudes and orientations
..Red hair is not, however, a marker of Jewishness. Red hair is neither restricted to Jews, nor is it predominant among them. Natural hair grows on Jews in many colors, maybe not as many as the colors on Joseph’s coat (see Gen. 37:3), but more than enough to dispel unwarranted stereotypes.
..Ginger Jews remind us of how varied Jews are. Ironically, the most important thing about redheadedness in Jews may well be that it is really not that important at all."
This may also be a good place to mention a few more famous people of Jewish descent that had red hair. Both of these were recently brought to my attention by Emanuela (along with a whole host of other new people - many of which I'll list in my next post.)

The first one is the Marxist theorist and anti-war activist Rosa Luxemburg. She was apparently nicknamed "Red Rosa" because of her hair colour and her politics. It reminds me of the Labour MP Ellen Wilkinson who used to get labelled "Red Ellen" for similar reasons.


Rosa Luxemburg

The second one is the filmmaker Billy Wilder, most famous for directing the Marilyn Monroe movie Some Like It Hot.

The book City of Nets: A Portrait of Hollywood in the 1940s describes him as "an ebullient youth with curly red hair". And the following Daily Mail article notes that his;
"twin trademarks were the pork pie hats he always wore - to hide his red hair - and the caustic observations that never allowed anyone to get really close to him."

Billy Wilder

Whilst looking online for an image to use I also came across a few quotes from Billy Wilder which I thought were worth sharing :)