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

Sunday, June 14, 2020

Red Hair and Freckles - The Product of Racial Melting Pots?

I thought I'd do another little follow up to a post I did last year. Where I speculated that perhaps red hair, far from having its origins in some long gone tribe or mutation, is actually a by-product of very diverse peoples mixing.

That original article can be found here;

To give a brief overview I can explain the general theory like this. Between the polar regions of the earth and the equator you have a natural spectrum of skin and hair tone. Caused by the relative sunlight people receive. From very light (i.e. blond/white) at the North Pole to very dark at the equator.

Normally, when there's only limited human travel (as there would've been in earlier times) this spectrum remains pretty steady and boring. As people tend to settle down and have children with people near to where they themselves are on this spectrum. However, once long distance travel begins, particularly sea travel, then you start getting people who look very different from each other intermarrying. Resulting in more chaotic, random colouring of the offspring. Hence red hair, freckles and hazel eyes.

To illustrate things a little better I'll split the world into regions;

(click to enlarge)

More often than not, due to limitations of travel, someone from Region A would only have offspring with someone from Region A or Region B. Meaning the offspring would be blond, light-skinned and blue-eyed, or perhaps ever so slightly darker than that (i.e. slightly further down the scale). The same with all the other regions, who only interact with the regions next door to themselves.

However, once you have Region A people meeting Region E people then all hell breaks loose, and strange variations pop up due to the sheer range of genes the offspring may inherit. Now sure, 9 out of 10 offspring may look something like Region C people, but 1 in 10 may have the luminosity of blond hair, but mixed with a darker tone not normally seen in standard blondes (red hair). Or eyes that are some strange mixture of bright blue and dark brown (hazel eyes). And so on and so forth.

Anyway, with that little description out the way I'll move on to the few things I wanted to add to the original article.

The Russia and Ireland Trade Route Melting Pots

(A red hair map, showing its
approximate frequency across Europe)

The above map shows the classic and familiar distribution of redheads across Europe. With the highest proportion generally appearing in Ireland and Scotland. There's also that little red dot in Russia, which has always been something of a fascination to me and others interested in this topic.

This theory that red hair is the product of diverse peoples mixing fits this map quite nicely.

Ireland and Scotland are perfectly positioned on the western coast of Europe, between the Mediterranean and Scandinavia. Meaning that thanks to sea travel up and down the Atlantic coast Irish and Scots may have a greater proportion of ancestors from these very different regions. A very large melting pot so to speak.

Likewise with Russia. Where trade routes would've stretched between the Middle East and Scandinavia via both land and inland sea routes. Namely around the Caspian and Black Seas.

So you could speculate that these little melting pots of trade and travel produced heightened numbers of redheads.

The Pale Skin Illusion

Another thing I want to mention in this article is the supposed unique paleness of redheads. The general opinion is that red-haired people are much more pale than other white people. Even more so than blonds. In fact, the skin is often described as translucent by observers.

However, I would proffer that redheads are no more pale than other white people and that this perceived extra paleness is simply an illusion. Created by the contrast of the red hair and freckles against the whiteness of the skin. For example, my freckly skin tans. However, the tanned skin still looks very white sat next to the much darker brown freckles. So it's like an optical effect.

I would speculate that in general redheads are no more pale than the average blond person.

Something which increases my confidence in this statement is a discussion I had with my friend. I brought up this little theory and he was adamantly against it.
"No, red-haired people are much paler, it's obvious! You can tell just from looking!"
The phrase "ginger skin" was even used, which in turn then led to a discussion about red-haired celebrities. The question being could you still tell that a person was ginger if they dyed their hair blond and you'd only ever known them as that colour. Sneakily I threw a few people into the conversation that were famous for being redheads, but that were in actual fact non-redheads - Tori Amos, Christina Hendricks, Florence Welch, to name a few. (Finally all that knowledge I'd acquired about red hair had a use).

Anyway, he was insistent that all these people, including the unbeknownst to him non-redheads, were so "ginger looking" that even with hair of another colour their overwhelming gingerness would shine forth. So he was quite disbelieving when I pointed out that some weren't even redheads to begin with.

Of course, this is just anecdotal evidence, but it does lend weight to the notion that the skin tone of red-haired people isn't especially different, and that any reasonably pale person can "look" ginger with the addition of red hair or freckles.

Sexual Licentiousness

A final thing I'd like to mention - and again, this is total speculation here ..but interesting speculation nonetheless - is the perceived association between red hair and sexual licentiousness. This is largely no doubt a product of the vividness of the red colouring - as with sexually alluring red lips for example. However, could this historic and seemingly ingrained association also be a product of the observation that red hair is a product of race mixing?

Something that would be seen as taboo in otherwise homogeneous tribal groups.

If red hair popped up in melting pot societies then this visible otherness could be perceived as an indicator of mixing with outsiders. So perhaps it would've been viewed as evidence that people had had sex beyond their immediate tribal groupings. Viewed through this lens of racial homogeneity it would be seen as an impurity, which of course is how freckles and red hair are often viewed today.

And I'll leave it there for now :)

Saturday, June 13, 2020

Some Random Red-Haired Art

I thought I'd share some of the red-haired artwork I've came across so far in 2020. First up, one from the English artist John William Waterhouse. I'm surprised I'd never came across this one before as Waterhouse is one of my favourite painters. It's titled A Song of Springtime.

(A Song of Springtime)

(A Song of Springtime - detail)

This next one is by the French artist Léon-Jean-Bazille Perrault and is titled Vénus à la colombe, which I'm guessing translates as Venus with dove.

(Vénus à la colombe)

Very naked.

Finally, we have this one. A image of Kate Barlass, by the artist Eleanor Fortescue-Brickdale.

(Kate Barlass)

Kate Barlass, or Catherine Douglas, was a figure from Scottish history who tried to prevent the assassination of King James I in 1437. The story goes that armed men were trying to break in to kill the king. As the king tried to hide Kate placed her arm across the door in lieu of the missing bolt that was supposed to be there. Unfortunately the men broke through the door, breaking her arm in the process, and then proceeded to kill the king.

In the image above you can see her barring the door.

Thanks to this act she acquired the surname 'barlass', a combination of the words bar and lass. The lass that barred the door. Lass, a very Scottish word, meaning a young girl or woman. A word also very common around my parts in Yorkshire and the North East of England.

In keeping with the arty theme her story was actually told in verse by Dante Gabriel Rossetti, in his poem The King's Tragedy. Which contained the line "Catherine, keep the door!".
Then the Queen cried, "Catherine, keep the door,
And I to this will suffice!"
At her word I rose all dazed to my feet,
And my heart was fire and ice.
Incidentally the phrase "Katy, bar the door" is also said to be a common expression used as a warning of danger in the southern USA. It's speculated that this phrase likewise has its origins in the Kate Barlass story. Though some have speculated that it has its roots in Scottish folk songs. Either way I've never heard it used in the UK before. Perhaps it might be time to bring it back.

Red Hair in Art: Vittorio Matteo Corcos

Vittorio Matteo Corcos (1859 - 1933) was an Italian painter, known for his portraits. Many of his genre works depict winsome and finely dressed young men and women, in moments of repose and recreation.

He painted portraits of Emperor William II and members of the German monarchy, Benito Mussolini, Countess Annina Morosini, Countess Nerina Volpi di Misurata, poet Giosuè Carducci, composers Puccini and Mascagni, Queen Amélie of Portugal and Princess of Orleans.

In 1913, his self-portrait was accepted by the Uffizi museum.

Beauty and the Butterfly

In the Garden

Young Woman with Little Dog

The Addict

Monday, June 1, 2020

1300 famous redheads!

Our partner blog Famous redheads in history proudly announces we have hit 1300 famous redheads!!

And we are sure more are yet to come.