Thursday, December 31, 2020

A few films about redheads (pt. 1)

It really seems that during the so-called golden age of cinema, directors had a crush on red hair.

Here are few of the several films on the subject. More to come.

The Red-Haired Alibi

The Red-Haired Alibi is an American pre-Code feature-length film produced by Tower Productions. The film was produced by Sigmund Neufeld.

Released on October 15, 1932, it was directed by Christy Cabanne. The movie was based on a novel of the same name written by Wilson Collison. It is the first feature-length film to feature child actress Shirley Temple in the credits.


A young woman seeks employment with a pleasant and charming man in Manhattan, only to learn over time that he is a gangster. After his crimes escalate to murder, police urge her to leave him in order to protect herself. She builds a new life in White Plains and marries a man who has a four year old daughter (Shirley Temple); however, one night, when she drops off her husband at Grand Central Station in New York, she is spotted by her former employer, who threatens to reveal her past unless she gives him a large sum so he can leave the country.

The next night, she meets her former employer at a restaurant, as they had arranged—only she refuses to pay him and fires a gun at him. A waiter who had overheard part of their conversation shares the information with police, who visit her at her home in White Plains. She confesses and hands over her gun, at which point the police realize that she is innocent, because the weapon that killed the gangster was a different caliber.

Here's the whole film




Those Redheads from Seattle

Those Redheads from Seattle is a 1953 American musical film, produced in 3-D and Technicolor, directed by Lewis R. Foster, starring Rhonda Fleming, Gene Barry, Teresa Brewer and Agnes Moorehead, and released by Paramount Pictures. It was the first 3-D musical.


A woman (Moorehead) takes her four unmarried daughters to Alaska during the 1898 Gold Rush to help their father, not knowing he is already dead. When the Edmonds women arrive in Skagway, they meet Johnny Kisco, owner of the Klondike Club, whose partner is the one who killed Edmonds, a newspaper publisher.

When the women find out Edmonds is dead and had no money, one becomes a dancer and singer, one becomes a nurse and the other two run the newspaper that was once belonged to their father, trying to run out the owner of the burlesque club. Pat, the singer, falls for Johnny and performs at his club. He is more interested in her sister Kathie, who takes exception to Johnny's ways and decides to wed a more respectable minister.

Johnny departs for Fairbanks to track down his partner, saving him from an avalanche and bringing him back to confess to Edmonds' murder. On the day she's to be married, Kathie, still in her wedding dress, runs to Johnny, realizing she is in love with him.

Here's the whole film.



The Man Who Loved Redheads

The Man Who Loved Redheads is a 1955 British comedy film directed by Harold French and starring Moira Shearer, John Justin and Roland Culver. The film is based on the play Who is Sylvia? (1950) by Terence Rattigan, which is reputedly a thinly veiled account of the author's philandering father. The film follows the play fairly closely, its main difference being the turning of Sylvia into a redhead.


Young peer and junior member of the Foreign Office, Mark St. Neots (John Justin), is obsessed with the memory of Sylvia (Moira Shearer), a 16-year-old redhead he met at a party as a boy, and vowed he would love forever. Now older and respectably married, Mark still retains his image of the beautiful young girl with the red hair, and spends the rest of his life searching for her, through a string of casual affairs.



The Red-Haired Cupid

The Red-Haired Cupid is a 1918 American silent western comedy film directed by Clifford Smith and starring Roy Stewart, Charles Dorian and Peggy Pearce.


Unhappy with William "Red" Saunders, the foreman of the Chanta Seechee Ranch in Oklahoma, its Eastern owners send a Boston tenderfoot named Albert Jones to manage the ranch with "Eastern business methods." Red prevents the angry cowboys from quitting, but they insist on making Jones the butt of their jokes and tricks. Upon learning that Jones's niece, Loys Andres, is planning a visit, the boys plan a rowdy reception for the woman, whom they expect will be an old maid. Loys's beauty, however, surprises them all, and Red's bunk-mate, Kyle Lambert, falls in love with her, and he soon proposes. When Jones tries to break up the romance, Red arranges for an elopement, but as the lovers reach the ford, a rustler called "Squint-Eye" Lucas fires at them, slightly wounding Kyle. Loys returns to the ranch for help, Red shoots Lucas, and Kyle is rescued, after which Loys and Kyle marry. Beaten, Jones gives the couple his blessing.




Red Hair

Red Hair is a 1928 silent film starring Clara Bow and Lane Chandler, directed by Clarence G. Badger, based on a novel by Elinor Glyn, and released by Paramount Pictures.

The film had one sequence filmed in Technicolor, and is now considered a lost film except for the color sequence at the UCLA Film and Television Archive, and a few production stills.


A free-spirited young girl has three middle-aged admirers, each of whom sees her from a completely different perspective. Unknown to her, they also happen to be the guardians of a wealthy young man to whom she is attracted.





Tuesday, December 22, 2020

Yet another red-haired St. Michael

The archangel Michael below is a detail from the Syon Cope - a cope is a type of ceremonial cloak worn in church services and processions. The Syon Cope is an example of opus anglicanum ('English work'), a Latin term for the exquisite luxury embroideries hand-made in England in the 14th century.

Red Hair in Art: Vojtěch Hynais

Vojtěch Adalbert Hynais (1854 – 1925) was a Czech painter, designer and graphics artist. He designed the curtain of the Prague National Theatre, decorated a number of buildings in Prague and Vienna, and was a founding member of the Vienna Secession. He was made an Officer of the Légion d'honneur in 1924.

Here's the curtain of the Prague National Theatre. Hynais had made the first sketches for the curtain while living in Montmartre; the winged figure is modelled on Suzanne Valadon

The Judgment of Paris (the red-haired goddess is Venus)

Magdalena (Noli me tangere)


Jeune fille de profil

Monday, December 21, 2020

Red Locks of Witch's Hair - viewed and on record

Whilst doing the research for the last two posts I also came across this little curiosity too. A letter published in a journal titled American Notes and Queries, Volume 1 (1888), from a man who claimed to have seen and handled locks of "red" hair from witches that were trialled and burned in Germany.

The text reads as follows;
"RED HAIR. (A.N. and Q., Vol.1, page29.)-I call your attention to the fact that in Soest in the "Redland" of Westphalia, where the Vehm-gericht used to sit under the old trees, still standing, there is in the townhall the records reaching for seven centuries back. I hied there for a week with Richter Rocholl, and through his influence all the records were shown and explained to me. There were lots of curious things; but among them there was this, that in the register of every witch-burning, there was a lock of the witch's hair preserved as an evidence of her guilt -this lock was uniformly red. They are retained in the Soest archives to this day - I saw the locks and handled them.
J. Hunter."
It's quite an interesting claim. I've had a few little searches to try to find some more information relating to this, but so far to no avail.

With it just being a letter there's the possibility that the writer may be exaggerating, or simply making things up. However, it does contain a fair bit of detail, and the way he mentions the name Richter Rocholl (another person I can find little information about) as if the reader would already be aware of such a person adds to this.

As a side note, when reading up on the Vehmic courts of old Germany referenced in the letter I found that the name "Redland" is said to stem from the fact that this blutbann or "blood justice" system of courts was still common in the area. Leaving the soil stained red with blood.

"[..] only in Westphalia, called “the Red Earth” because here the imperial Blutbann was still valid, were capital sentences passed and executed by the Vehmic courts in the Emperor's name alone."

Though it's also speculated that the "red earth" appellation may simply stem from the red colouring of some of the soil in the region. A somewhat duller explanation.

As for the locks of hair it would obviously be quite exciting if these still existed somewhere, though that's no doubt quite unlikely. Even assuming the claim being made is true.

Nevertheless I'll try to dig up further information going forward.

Book Review: The White Horse and the Red-haired Girl

'The White Horse and the Red-haired Girl' is an early 20th century work by Lorin Andrews Lathrop (who published fiction under the pen name Kenyon Gambier).

The story is set in the run up to Christmas 1914, in the early days of World War I, and it centres around a female heroine. A plucky, but slightly privileged English woman called Peggy, who sneaks into continental Europe using a false passport to rescue her brother, who had been wounded in action.

The book is quite short - I raced through it in a couple of evenings - and it has that movie-like feel that many American novels from the first half of the 20th century seem to have. Making it very easy and comfortable to read.

I really enjoyed the book and well recommend it. It also felt quite timely to read. I felt many parts paralleled today's world of 2020. Much of the book is set in a Belgium which is occupied by the Germans. Though the country is occupied and there's a sense of mild despair and suppression amongst the people, much of life goes on as normal. Hotels are open, people sit ordering food, Christmas is celebrated. The book gives a weird sense of what war is like - outside of the actual warfare. Normal life continues, just heavily curtailed and under a black cloud.

Obviously it would be something of an exaggeration to compare the year we've just had to a year at the outset of World War I, but nevertheless I recognised the sense portrayed in the book. That feeling of living under some type of weird martial law, where the rules have suddenly changed, and people are just getting along with it as best they can. Showing their papers when needed. Some in denial, some with a sense of brooding resentment and rebellion. Many just carrying on, not really understanding the wider political events that are buffeting their lives about.

It was all quite resonant.

Another aspect that had echoes of today were the various border and travel restrictions. As America was neutral in these early days of the war American travellers could pass into German territory with relative ease. Whereas the English Peggy has to pretend to be American to get through.

Perhaps unsurprisingly the book tends to portray the British, American and Belgian characters in a positive light, and the German characters in a negative one. When I was reading I did wonder if it was perhaps deliberate propaganda used to help ease American readers into the conflict. However, the book was first published in serial form in 1918, then as a novel in 1919, so too late to help tip the balance of public opinion (the Americans entered the war in 1917). So I'm guessing the feelings and stereotypes portrayed in the work stemmed from genuine sentiment.

As well as seeing parallels with today there were also a few things that were noticeably different. You often forget how different attitudes to sex, marriage and relationships were back then. There's a female character in the book called Yvonne who's romantically involved with a German lieutenant. When I first started reading these parts I just assumed, no doubt because of my 21st century sensibilities, that they were sexually involved. It was only as I read on that it dawned on me that they were simply "courting" - emotionally involved, dating, but not physically involved. Any sexual involvement, even just kissing strictly confined to after marriage. Even for a conquering German.

This prim and properness likewise extended to our heroine Peggy, and her love interest - Roderick Stoneman, an American airman who had crossed lines raiding a German aerodrome on behalf of the French.

Being reminded of how these ideals were once held noble and lionised - where love was elevated (at least in theory) above sex - it made me slightly lament our modern ways. We seem to have lost our awe in regard 'falling in love', and with it all the romantic and heroic acts it inspires. Everything seems to be instant and materialistic now. That sense of fate has been abandoned.

Before I get lost in my own lamentations though perhaps I should get round to mentioning the actual 'red hair' parts.

As for the superstition or saying regarding the white horse and the red-haired girl it only really crops up briefly in the book. It's more a little motif than anything else.

The protagonist Peggy does indeed have red hair, and in a sense the title is a vague reference to her. However, her colouring is described more as a "burnished ruddy" shading, as opposed to a fiery red;

'Her hair was ruddy in the bright sunshine - lots of it, noticeable, marked; not a head to slip through German lines and be forgotten'

In the book the white horse is specifically a reference to the Uffington White Horse. The ancient English landmark, where a giant horse is carved into the white chalk of a large hillside. When Peggy's love interest is asked about this 'white horse' by another character he jokingly makes a reference to the saying about red-haired women and white horses.

'Stoneman forced a laugh.

"In America," he said, "we have a saying: Where there's a white horse, there's a red-haired girl."

"Ungallant!" she said; "Peggy had the beautiful auburn hair."

Unless I'm misreading the tone I'm guessing the half-joking reply of "ungallant" tells us that calling her red-haired is viewed as something of an insult. Albeit a minor one. Hence the claim that it's a "beautiful auburn" colour instead. (Once again we see this idea of "carrot" red hair being frowned upon, but auburn being held in high esteem).

In fact, there is one other reference to red hair in the book, where a "ginger" waiter is referred to.

'but he suspected one neutral waiter, the ginger-haired
fellow who pretended to be a Swiss.'

It's not an important reference, but I guess it shows that 'ginger' tends to be used in an offhand way. It's usually simply descriptive, and rarely if ever used in a positive or poetic sense.

That aside though, and my brief despairing at the modern world aside too, the book was a very good read and I feel quite fortunate to have found it.

A freely available PDF of the work can be found here for anyone wanting to read it themselves;

Sunday, December 20, 2020

Red-Haired Girls and White Horses ..revisited

I recently listened to the following song, performed by the red-haired vaudeville comedienne Irene Franklin. Suitably titled Redhead.

(More information can be found about Irene Franklin here.)

The recording is from 1913, and what caught me was not so much the redhead theme - quaint though that is - but the lyrics.

In particular this reference to red hair and white horses.

Freckle-face, strawberry blonde head
Here's a white horse, hide your head!

Readers familiar with this blog may remember that this is a theme that has popped up before. Back in the 19th and early 20th century there was a common saying that whenever a red-haired girl appeared a white horse would appear not long after. It was essentially an old superstition, claiming that redheaded girls and white horses were conjoined in some vague mystical way. Children (along with adults too it seems) played I spy type games based around the notion, and as a consequence the idea came into common parlance. Popping up in newspaper and journal articles of the time.

Some of which I first charted in this piece;

Anyway, having dug into this topic before, that little song line caught my eye, or ear rather, and I thought I'd note it down as yet another example of a once common superstition now lost to time. Especially as the song itself is well worth sharing here for its general gingerness.

It also spurred me on to have another look to find other examples. Leading me to this curious article, which comes from a 1894 publication titled Handy-book of Literary Curiosities, by William Shepard Walsh.

It can be found on pages 957/958 of that work. I'll quote it in full.
Red-haired girls and white horses. The popular jest about the necessary contiguity of red-haired girls and white horses is by no means modern, though in its recent revival it has swept over the country as a novelty. Some of us remember that our grandfathers used jocularly to assert it to the wondering ears of youth as a well-attested fact. In all likelihood, the saying took its origin in the old English game called sometimes the "game of the road," but more often "ups and downs," which is still a favorite among children and travelling salesmen in Great Britain. One party takes the "up" side of the street or road, the other the "down," counting one for every ordinary object and five for a white horse (a piebald counting as white), until a certain number agreed upon carries off the victory; but a red-headed woman or a donkey wins the game at once.

Another explanation refers the phrase to a North-of-Ireland superstition that the sight of a red-headed girl brings ill luck to the beholder unless he retrace his steps to the starting-point; but if he meet a white horse at any stage of his backwards progress the spell is ipso facto averted. In the midland counties of England, on the other hand, it is ill luck to meet a white horse without spitting at it. In Wexford an odd cure for the whooping-cough is suggested by current superstition. The patient trudges along the road until he meets a piebald horse, and shouts out to the rider, "Halloo, man on the piebald horse! what is good for the whooping-cough?" and no matter how absurd the remedy suggested, he will certainly be cured. In Scotland, to dream of a white horse foretells the coming of a letter.

The prejudice against red hair is as wide-spread and deep-rooted as it is unaccountable. Tradition assigns reddish hair to both Absalom and Judas. Thus, Rosalind, complaining of her lover's tardiness, pettishly exclaims, "His own hair is of the dissembling color!" and is answered by Celia, "Somewhat browner than Judas's." Marston, also, in his "Insatiate Countess," says, "I ever thought by his red beard he would prove a Judas: here am I bought and sold."

But Leonardo da Vinci, it may be noted in passing, paints Judas with black hair in his fresco "The Last Judgement."

All over Europe red hair is associated with treachery and deceitfulness. In a collection of German proverbs made by Henry Bebel as early as 1512, the following occurs: "The short in stature are naturally proud, and the red-haired untrustworthy." In England, Thomas Hughes says, "I myself know persons who on that account alone never admit into their service any whose hair is thus objectionable." An old French proverb warns you, "Salute no red-haired man nor bearded woman nearer than thirty feet off, with three stones in the fist to defend thee in thy need." In Sweden the prejudice against red hair is explained on the ground that the traitor jarl Ashbörn, who betrayed King Canute to his death, was red-headed. But even the ancient Egyptians had the same prejudice. For one thing, of course, a red-haired man was likely to be a foreigner. But, in addition, red was symbolical of Typho, a spirit of evil. Any one with ruddy complexion or red hair was suspected of being connected with the evil one. Red donkeys, especially, were looked upon as naturally evil beasts, and red oxen were offered in the sacrifices.

Though red hair is almost universally held in light esteem, the prejudice against red itself does not extend much beyond Egypt. In Congo, red is a sacred colour; in China and Japan it is used at death-beds to scare off evil spirits. In many parts of Europe, also, it is considered obnoxious to evil spirits. In old Teutonic folk-lore it was held to be symbolic of victory, possibly in reminiscence of Thor's red beard. And as it was regarded, also, as representing heat, it was therefore, in a manner, heat, just as white, representing cold, was cold itself. Sick people were wrapped in red blankets, a superstition only recently revived in the red flannel underwear supposed to be useful in cases of rheumatism. Red flowers were used for disorders of the blood, as yellow for those of the liver.

Another example of the close connection between red and white is the corpse-candle, which if it burned red signified that a man was the doomed person; if white, a woman.

I quite like that last line of the first paragraph; "but a red-headed woman or a donkey wins the game at once" 😄

The notion that in Scotland dreaming of a white horse foretells the arrival of a letter is also quite nice. Though in a rather different way.

I find it interesting too that the writer notes traditions relating to Absalom having red hair. This is something I wasn't hereto aware of, though it vaguely rings a bell. So perhaps I should look further into that one.

[Note: I've just had a little search and Absalom came up back in 2014 in an article relating to William of Orange. So that's no doubt why it rings a bell. The article notes medals struck depicting William, including one portraying him as a usurper (as Absalom was in the biblical story).

"[H]e is represented under the figure of Absalom, hanging by his red hair
(in allusion to the name of Orange) to an oak-tree[.]"

In my searching out of info about red hair and white horses I also came across a work of fiction from 1918 titled 'The White Horse and the Red-haired Girl'.

..which I'll review in my next blog post.

Sunday, November 15, 2020

Red Hair in the Media

A little bit of media attention today. I was interviewed, just via email, for an article published by the Turkish news broadcaster TRT World.

The article concerns the stigmatisation of red hair in the UK, and I was one of several redheads asked to give an opinion.

I think the article is quite balanced. I've never really dealt with mainstream media organisations before, so I wasn't too sure what to expect. Consequently it was a nice surprise to see my opinions relayed intact and not misrepresented or taken out of context in any way.

In the article it is questioned whether hate crime legislation is needed to deal with the abuse aimed at redheads.

Obviously prejudice against red hair is quite real, and all redheads living in the UK will have experienced it to some degree at some point. However, by the same token we are living in quite pernicious times regarding free speech too. So I think it's important to avoid creating further avenues for the prosecution of wrongthink.

My quote towards the end of the article was my attempts to express this, so I'm happy it was included. I felt a little bit bad giving this answer to the question - it always feels like you're downplaying genuine abuse - but I think it's good to be a counterweight sometimes.

Also, it was interesting to discover that one of the other redheads interviewed for the article is an actress who often performs as Mary, Queen of Scots. Her work can be viewed here;

She would've been the perfect illustration for the Mary, Queen of Scots post I did a few weeks ago.

Friday, October 23, 2020

Ossian, and his ancient Gaelic redheads

As I noted in the last post I've been looking into the works of Ossian. Albeit somewhat superficially. Ossian is the supposed author of a cycle of epic poems, originally composed in Scottish Gaelic, but translated and published in English by James Macpherson in the 18th century. The general view is that the true author was in fact Macpherson himself, and that he either forged the poems outright, or stitched them together from genuine traditions and texts.

Though less well known now the works of Ossian were hugely influential following their publication, and inspired many of the famous writers and artists in the decades that followed. Even people such as Napoleon and Thomas Jefferson were big fans (perhaps due in part to the fact that they themselves were redheads, and the allure of flame-haired ancient battles and romance appealed to them??).

The works also hugely impacted the cultural landscape in regard Scottish and Gaelic history. Influencing among others Sir Walter Scott.

I found the following little references to red hair in a publication titled The Poems of Ossian: In the Original Gaelic, Volume 2. (1870). Fortunately it also provides the English versions too :)

"Thou head of bards," said Ca-mor;
"Fonnar, call the chiefs of Erin:
Call Connar of the dark-red hair;
Call Malhos of the fiercest brow;

That third line reads as "Gairm Cormar a's dearg-ruadh ciabh" in Scots Gaelic. "Dearg-ruadh" meaning reddish-brown if I'm reading it correctly.

All these poetic lines will no doubt sound a little odd removed from their wider context, but as I haven't read the entire things myself yet (they're quite long and samey, very Homeric) I can't really provide much help. So we'll have to make do and just note these little passages down for now.

Next one >>

"The sounding steps of his warriors came: they drew at once their swords. There Morlath stood with darkened face. Hidalla's long hair sighs in the wind. Red-haired Cormar bends on his spear, and rolls his sidelong-looking eyes."

Then we have this.

"Crathin came to the hall, the son of old Gelláma! 'I behold,' he said, 'a cloud in the desert, king of Erin! a cloud it seemed at first, but now a crowd of men! One strides before them in his strength. His red hair flies in wind. His shield glitters to the beam of the east. His spear is in his hand.'

Next up this. (It really is very Homeric in style isn't it. It's like reading the Iliad. Probably a good giveaway that the poems are indeed forged).

"Cairbar shrinks before Oscar's sword! He creeps in darkness behind a stone. He lifts the spear in secret: he pierces my Oscar's side! He falls forward on his shield; his knee sustains the chief. But still his spear is in his hand. See, gloomy Cairbar falls! The steel pierced his forehead and divided his red hair behind. He lay like a shattered rock which Cromla shakes from its shaggy side, when the green-valleyed Erin shakes its mountains from sea to sea."

Now a nice little short one thankfully.

"He has come with thousands of his host
To the help of Cairbar of red hair -
Now to avenge his death,
King of Morven of lofty trees."

Plus another few lines that note the character Cairbar's red hair.

"Peerless Ca-mor, friend of strangers,
Brother to red-haired Cairbar..

And finally a mention of a "red-haired Olla".

"Red-haired Olla came with song;
Straightway went Oscar to the feast,
Three hundred strode beside him
Over Lena of the full blue streams;
His grey dogs bounded on the heath"

No doubt there'll be other references to hair colour dotted about in other Ossian poems. I'll keep an eye out going forward. Hopefully by that time I'll be a little more familiar with the subject, and I'll be able to provide a bit more context. Perhaps I'm doing these red-haired heroes a distinct disservice by sharing their names and features with so little knowledge or reverence.

Cormar, Cairbar, Olla ..who the hell are these people?!

Hair, Care and Pretty Pictures

All the passages in this post will be coming from a work titled The Hair: Its Growth, Care, Diseases and Treatment, written by one Charles Henri Leonard. Published 1879. It's quite a treasure trove of anecdote and information. I'll relay the contents by page number for simplicity.

Page 12.

"In red hair is found a reddish oil, a small quantity of iron,
but a large quantity of sulphur."

Page 61.

"Mr. H. C. Sorby has succeeded in extracting the coloring matter of human hair, and found that there are three coloring pigments, yellow red and black, and that all the shades are produced by the mixture of these three primary colors.

In the pure golden, yellow hair there is only the yellow pigment; in red hair the red pigment is mixed with more or less yellow, producing the various shades of red and orange; in dark hair the black is always mixed with yellow and red, but the latter are overpowered by the black; and it seems that even the blackest hair, such as that of the Negro, contains as much red pigment as the very reddest hair. He concludes from this, that if in the Negro the black pigment had not been developed, the hair of all Negros would be as fiery a red as the reddest hair of an Englishman."

The antiquated terminology aside, it's quite interesting that the author notes that black hair also contains the red pigmentation, which is "overpowered" by the darker pigment. As this tallies fairly well with what we currently know from genetics. Though the author here splits things into three pigments (yellow, red and black) in contrast to how we now view things. With skin and hair colour being a product of two factors; eumelanin and pheomelanin.

Page 67.

"Red-haired people are firm in their convictions, and are great lovers of their mother country, people and church; notably so are the Scotch. Their morals are of the sturdy, Puritanic type. Such people are classed as of sanguine temperament. When the hair is coarse and harsh, brutality and sensuousness marks the character of the possessor."

Page 112.

"Sibley gives a case where a girl, of Somersetshire, had one side of her head covered with jet-black hair, whilst the other side was covered with hair of a reddish yellow. The body hair was as characteristically marked. The mother's hair was a carroty-red."

Page 129.

"A case is related by Bogue of a young gentleman, possessing a fine head of brown hair, going to Samatra for a few years when, on his return, his friends found it difficult to recognize him, as the brown hair of his head was replaced by that of a positive red color."

Page 158. On dyeing the hair.

The ancient Greeks and Romans sanctioned it; for the saintly Tertullian, of Carthage, had occasion to reprimand his flock because "they were continually engaged in giving their hair a lighter color." St. Jerome, living a couple of centuries later, wrote that "the people dye their hair red." Aelian incidentally refers to the same coloring process, when he speaks of the beauteous blonde tresses of Atalanta, in saying that they were "yellow, not produced by any womanly art, but altogether natural." Soloman, so Josephus says, was the first to bring into notice golden hair, for he had the hair of his pages powdered with gold. And the Musselman, likewise, deems it almost a sacred duty to dye his hair and beard a reddish-yellow color."

Page 166, 167.

"It is said that red hair was not known to the old inhabitants of England, until the country was invaded by the Saxons and the Danes. The Danish soldiers, prior to the Norman conquest, who were quartered in England during the reign of Ethelred II. (968), had red hair. The second son of William, Duke of Normandy, who conquered England at the battle of Hastings, and who succeeded to the crown, was called Rufus on account of his red hair. Ossian, in his poems, scarcely mentions any beautiful man or woman without clothing them with a cranial covering of reddish hue. The ancient Gauls also manifested this predilection for red hair. The Turks, it is said, liked red-haired women, and the Tripolitan ladies aid in this coloration with vermilion. Some of the central African tribes manifest a similar fondness."

This little passage led me to look up the poetry of Ossian, I'll note my findings in the next post.

Page 268.

"In the matter of the color of the hair, Apollo received the golden-coloured locks; Mars had red hair and beard; Venus, yellow, golden tresses; Minerva, flaxen braids concealed beneath her helmet. As a rule, in their [the ancient Greeks] poems, their warriors were men of reddish hair, their women with the golden tresses of Venus."

Page 278.

"The ancient Gauls esteemed it an honor to have the hair long, and hence Caesar, when he had conquered them, not only made them "pass under the yoke," but deprived them of their long tresses also; then those that vowed perpetual submission retired to the cloisters, and shaved their heads. This feeling of humiliation, at the cropping of the hair, descended for generations among the French people, and hence, under the first régime, to cut the hair of the heir to the crown was deemed an exclusion of his rights to the succession, and reduced him to the position of an ordinary subject. The kings and princes, during this period, wore their hair long; though the subjects were made to have their hair cut short, as emblematic of their inferior state. They were also great admirers of red hair, although their descendants, at a period later, held it in abomination."

Finally, just for fun, I'll share some of the images I came across in the book. Which depict some of the unusual hairstyles the author relates.

Something to consider if you're thinking of a style change.

Mary, Queen of Scots Revisited..

I first posted on here about Mary, Queen of Scots way back in 2011. Since then that page has clocked up more views that any other page on the site ..and by a fair few thousand. So the hair colour of wee Mary must be a hot topic.

(A vaguely-red haired Mary
- painted by François Clouet)

Anyway, recently I've discovered a few more quotes, so I can add a little more. Mainly thanks to this very interesting article on the history of hair turning white through fear.

Sudden Whitening of the Hair - J. E. Jelinek, M.D.

The useful footnotes to the piece helped me find the following two little passages. The first one coming from a work titled The Hair: Its Growth, Care, Diseases and Treatment (which I'll be relating more information from in my next post). It notes that Mary's "auburn" hair turned grey through grief.

"Another royal instance is that of Mary, Queen of Scots, whose auburn hair, through fright and grief, was changed to gray in the course of a few days. Miss C. D. Brent, of Washington, has in her possession a lock of hair of this unfortunate individual. It is of silky texture, and of a beautiful pale auburn colour."

The text, published in 1879, also noted that the hair of Marie Antionette changed from auburn to grey.

"Marie Antoinette, the Queen of Louis XVI., whose magnificent auburn tresses changed to gray in a single night, when the royal party was arrested at Varennes."

The passage I really wanted to share though was this following one. The original was in French, in a publication titled Causeries du lundi, Volume 4 (1852). I've translated it using Google Translate and a little bit of my own tinkering, so it probably isn't quite perfect. Still, even in my uncultured hands the information and poetry radiates out.

"Mme Sand, speaking of a portrait she saw as a child at the Couvent des Anglaises, said without hesitation: "Marie was beautiful, but red-haired". Mr. Dargaud speaks of another portrait where "a ray of sunlight shines [..] curls of living and electric hair in the light", but Walter Scott, renowned as the most exact of historical novelists, paints us a picture of Marie Stuart as a prisoner in the castle of Lochleven. Showing us, as if he had seen her himself, the thick braids of dark brown hair which escaped at a certain moment from under the cap of the queen. Here we are far from red, and I see no way to reconcile everything, but to go through this hair "so beautiful, so blond and ashen" that Brantome admired, a very eye witness; hair that captivity had to whiten, and which will show the hour of death in the hands of the executioner."

So even in butchered French I guess the jury is still out somewhat. Best leave her on the boundary between redhead and non-redhead I suppose. With auburn or dark brown being our best guess.

(The original French)

Thursday, October 22, 2020

Old Ethnographers Revisited..

Today we're heading back in time a little. When I first started doing this one of the things I came across was the world of 19th century ethnographers. Learned men discussing all the races, shades and colours of man. Replete with their various theories and prejudices. They were very interesting to read ..and also often a great source for little titbits about red hair.

Anyway, I've been digging into that realm again and I've found a few more.

Firstly we have this quote from the Compte-rendu de la première session, Londres, 1934. It contemplates the idea of a red-haired race (or the lack thereof).

"Curiously enough, we do not think that we can trace our sporadic red hair back to a red-haired race. So far as we know there has never been a people all of whose members were red-haired, though we find large numbers of red-haired individuals among such peoples as the Irish, Jews and Malays. But there seems never to have been a sufficient number of red-haired people who were proud enough of their characteristic to invent a racial myth about it. It may be that in the course of time there will be a race of Man whose members are wholly or mainly red-haired, but at present Man seems to be evolving towards greater diversity within populations, rather than greater uniformity."

Next we have this one. It comes from the Physical History of Mankind: Ethnography of the African races. 3d ed. 1837 by James Cowles Prichard.

[We came across James Cowles Prichard back in this piece. Which incidentally also mentions the Funge people whom he refers to below. ]

"[T]he inhabitants of the high tracts of Mons Aurasius are completely xanthous, having red or yellow hair and blue eyes, which fancifully, and without the shadow of any proof, they have been conjectured to have derived from the Vandal troops of Genseric."

"One of the peculiarities of the nation last mentioned [the Funge], is the frequent appearance among them of a red complexion and of red hair, a phenomenon analogous, as it would seem, to the so-termed accidental developement of light varieties of complexion in the black nations, of which so many instances have been recorded. White Negroes, or Dondos, are frequently born from black parents, in all parts of Africa. Many of them are of the xanthous variety, and have red hair. They seem to be particularly numerous in the black race which repeopled Sennaar some hundred years ago, where, under the name of "El Aknean," "the Red People," they form, according to M. Cailliaud, a separate or distinguishable caste."

He also provides us with this little nugget;
"According to Pigafetta's statement, the "Negroes of Kongo have black, curly, and frequently red hair." He observes that "they resemble the Portuguese pretty much, except in colour: the iris was in some black, but in others of a bluish green"
We then have these quotes from Lectures on Physiology, Zoology, and the Natural History of Man: Delivered at the Royal College of Surgeons by Sir William Lawrence, 1823. They note observations of red hair amidst non-European populations.
"Forster saw, in the island of Otaha, a man with fair freckled skin and red hair. Red-haired individuals have been observed in most of the dark nations, as the Wotiaks, Eskimaux, islanders of New Guinea and New Zealand, and the Negroes."

"He [Blumenbach] himself saw a Mulatto with red hair, of which he procured a specimen. A man of mulatto complexion, freckled, with strong red hair, disposed in small wiry curls, and born of black parents, was seen by WINTERBOTTOM, ii. 170; who met with others having red complexion and hair"
There was also this passage noting the various eye colours, as laid down by Aristotle.
"The three principal colours of the human eye were well laid down by ARISTOTLE, viz. blue, passing in its lighter tints to what we call gray; an obscure orange, which he calls the colour of the eye in the goat (Fr. yeux de chevre), a kind of middle tint between blue and orange, and sometimes remarkably green in men with very red hair and freckled skin; and lastly, brown in various shades, forming in proportion to its depth what we call hazel, dark, or black eyes."
I quite like how the "obscure orange" is labelled the "yeux de chevre" - "eye of the goat".

Finally, we have this one, mentioning the beliefs of the noted British Assyriologist Reverend Archibald Henry Sayce. I found it in The Archaeology of Race: The Eugenic Ideas of Francis Galton and Flinders Petrie by Debbie Challis.
"There was no ambiguity about Sayce's thoughts on the race of the Egyptians who he thought were white and similar to northern Europeans but with a red-skin due to sun-burn and black or red hair (Sayce, 1925: 83)."
We came across Sayce quite a way back in relation to red hair. That time in a post relating to British Israelism.

2012 (!) ..seems like an aeon ago.

Wednesday, October 21, 2020

Jewish Hearts and Sweet Little Jesus

Further digging. A few interesting quotes. First up we have one from a book titled Jewish Hearts: A Study of Dynamic Ethnicity in the United States and the Soviet Union by Betty N. Hoffman, 2012. It concerns a child getting bullied at a Russian summer camp for having red hair.

"They beat her when nobody saw because she had a very pronounced Jewish appearance. She had red hair, and in Russia red hair belongs only to Jews."

We've came across this notion before, it seems to be a bit of a recurring theme. I often wonder; is it a product of red hair being genuinely more frequent amongst Russian Jews? Or does it stem from something far deeper in culture and folklore? Perhaps it's a combination of both. We've noted before that red hair was also said to be more common amongst Jews living in Poland than amongst the native Polish population. So this idea pops up quite frequently.

Our next quote follows on from this a little. It notes the ancient bias towards red hair, and comes from a work tilted The Jewish Persona in the European Imagination: A Case of Russian Literature, by Leonid Livak (2010);

"Ancient bias against red hair, manifest in the flaming hair of Seth-Typhon and in the red-haired slave-figure of the classical comedy, persists in medieval and Renaissance drama and visual arts, as well as in European folklore, where red hair symbolizes the fires of hell and the demons stoking them. As a result, English, German, French, Polish, and east Slavic popular cultures designate red hair and freckles as peculiar to Judas and "the jews." [..]

It then continues, recounting the view of Charles Dickens.

"The same association runs in high culture, from the Spanish Inquisition's view of red hair as "jewish" by default to Dickens's vision of London's Hollywell Street (Sketches by Boz, IV:76) as full of "redheaded and red-whiskered Jews" - a demonic trait in the writer's opinion, if we were to judge by Fagin's "matted red hair"[.]"

We've mentioned the Dickensian view of red hair on here before, and the description of Hollywell Street seems to fit the theme perfectly. We've noted on this blog, perhaps a dozen times or more (it's a cherished theme, it ticks all the redhead boxes), that Dickens famously labelled the child Christ in Millais's Christ in the House of His Parents as a "wry-necked, blubbering, redheaded boy, in a bed-gown."

So Dickens clearly wasn't too fond of the colour lol

(Christ in the House of His Parent - detail)


Just a quick addendum. As I was writing this I came across another little quote from Dickens. This time from his Letters and Speeches. It refers to a groom with red hair.
"Since I have written this, the aforesaid groom - a very small man (as the fashion is), with fiery red hair (as the fashion is not) - has looked very hard at me and fluttered about me at the same time, like a giant butterfly."
Not especially interesting, but worth noting nonetheless.

The Code of Manu & Kitty Kirkpatrick

More digging around in Google Books. Both the things today have a slight Indian feel.

This first one comes in regard the ancient Hindu legal text known as the Manusmriti. I came across this in a book titled Sex and Race, Volume 3 by J. A. Rodgers. It recalls that upper castes were forbidden from marrying women with red or golden hair.

"The Code of Manu, one of the oldest law-books of the world forbade the marriage of a Brahman [..] with a Sudra, or artisan. [..] Manu also considered a woman who had red, or golden hair, inferior, and marriage with her by any of the three upper castes was forbidden".

This next, geographically-related bit of information comes from Sex and the Family in Colonial India: The Making of Empire by Durba Ghosh. It quotes Thomas Carlyle, who poetically describes the red-haired daughter of a mixed Anglo-Indian marriage.

[The] entry of a strangely-complexioned young lady, with soft brown eyes and floods of bronze-red hair, really a pretty-looking, smiling and amiable, though most foreign bit of magnificence and kindly splendour;...her birth, as I afterwards found, an Indian Romance, mother a sublime begum, father a ditto English official, mutually adoring, wedding, living withdrawn in their own private paradise, Romance famous in the East.

 - Thomas Carlyle, Reminiscences (1823)

The young lady was Katherine Kirkpatrick, "the daughter of James Achilles Kirkpatrick, resident of Hyderabad, and the Begum Khair-un-nissa, a noblewoman of the court at Hyderabad."

(Portrait of Katherine Kirkpatrick, ca. 1830)

(A rich-coloured portrait of Kitty with her
brother William - her red hair clearly visible)

Tuesday, October 20, 2020

An artist's notes on (red) hair

In my wanderings I came across another old article that mentions red hair. It's titled 'An Artists Notes On Hair', and comes from a 19th century publication titled 'The art journal London (1857)'.

I'll quote a few paragraphs;

"The pale gold runs into the full gold, that into the coppery, then into the red, then into the auburn, and lastly into the dark, almost black hair, with red in it. This is the grandest kind of hair, perhaps, of all - grander even than the black hair with bright blue lights, because it is stronger in character, richer, and more vital. It is hair one would fancy Samson had. This kind, however, is very uncommon. I have not seen it in perfection more than once or twice.

Red hair is not often the subject of praise, nevertheless, there are several kinds of it that are very beautiful. I know but one, indeed, which I cannot like, and that is the fiery, brick-dusty version which is associated with an unpleasing complexion of the sallow, pale, tallowy, or fire-burnt character. When, however, the complexion is agreeable - and it often is the most charming and peachy when the hair is red - then the quality of the hair is commonly pleasing too. The delicacy of these tints, however, agrees better with the female than the male character, and therefore red hair is more agreeable in a woman than a man, in whom a certain pronounced vigour of appearance is looked for, which in red hair is apt to fall into the aforesaid brick-dusty and fiery."

The entire article can be found here;

Monday, October 19, 2020

François Ravaillac - Redheaded Assassin

A good while ago we briefly noted that François Ravaillac, the famed assassin of King Henry IV of France, was a redhead.

We even gave him his own page;

Anyway, a few days ago I came across a passage confirming this. I say confirm, the text it comes from is from 1719, and Ravaillac died in 1610, so it isn't quite proof, but still; pretty old.

The book is titled 'The history of king-killers' and describes him as an "enthusiastic hellish murderer of his sovereign", and as being "red hair'd [and] of a melancholy temper".

Wednesday, August 12, 2020

Cats and an amulet

A couple of pretty nice red-haired images. Firstly this one titled The Amulet by the English painter and illustrator William Henry Margetson.

(The Amulet - William Henry Margetson)

The second is this one by the artist John Collier. It depicts the goddess Circe out in nature with wild animals, including a tiger and a smaller feline (an ocelot ? a leopard ? a marbled cat ? - I have no idea). There's also a lion (I think) in the background. Either way, very cool image.

(Circe - John Collier)

Thursday, July 2, 2020

Red Hair in Art: Adriano Sousa Lopes and Akseli Gallen-Kallela

Adriano Sousa Lopes (1879 - 1944) was a Portuguese Modernist painter and engraver who worked in a wide range of genres.

The painting below is titled The Blue Blouse (c. 1920). I couldn't find out the sitter's name, but as you can see she looks like Lopes' wife, in the 1927 painting Portrait of Madame Sousa Lopes.

(The Blue Blouse)

(Portrait of Madame Sousa Lopes)

Akseli Gallen-Kallela (1865 - 1931) was a Finnish painter who is best known for his illustrations of the Kalevala, the Finnish national epic. His work is considered very important for the Finnish national identity.

The painting below is titled Ad astra (1907, oil on canvas), which means "towards the stars" in Latin.

(Ad astra)

Monday, June 15, 2020

Red Hair in Art: Amedeo Modigliani

Amedeo Modigliani (1884 - 1920) was an Italian painter and sculptor who worked mainly in France. He is known for portraits and nudes in a modern style characterized by elongation of faces, necks, and figures that were not received well during his lifetime but later found acceptance. Modigliani spent his youth in Italy, where he studied the art of antiquity and the Renaissance. In 1906 he moved to Paris, where he came into contact with such artists as Pablo Picasso and Constantin Brâncuși. By 1912 Modigliani was exhibiting highly stylized sculptures with Cubists of the Section d'Or group at the Salon d'Automne.

Modigliani's oeuvre includes paintings and drawings. From 1909 to 1914 he devoted himself mainly to sculpture. His main subject was portraits and full figures, both in the images and in the sculptures. Modigliani had little success while alive, but after his death achieved great popularity. He died of tubercular meningitis, at the age of 35, in Paris.

As you can see below, he really loved redheads! One of his frequent subjects was his common-law wife Jeanne Hébuterne, who committed suicide after Modigliani's death. I've uploaded only a couple of her portraits.

Woman with Red Hair

La rousse au pendentif

Young Woman of Montmartre

Annie Bjarne


Portrait of Lunia Czechowska

Portrait of a Young Woman

Portrait of Jeanne Hébuterne

Red-Haired Girl in Evening Dress

Girl with a Polka-Dot Blouse

Jeanne Hébuterne

Young Woman in a Shirt

Seated Nude

Standing Nude

Jeune homme à la casquette


Boy in Short Pants

Boy with Striped Shirt

Boy in Sailor Suit

Petit garçon roux

Portrait of a Young Man