Tuesday, November 29, 2022

Red Hair of the Red Earth

This is the last item I have to upload, and concerns red hair in Jewish populations. It's from the Medical and Surgical Reporter - Volume 22, dated 1870. It references the writings of a certain Dr John Beddoe, a familiar name to anyone that's been following this blog over the last decade or so.
"A pamphlet has lately been written on the physical characteristics of the [Jewish] race by JOHN BEDDOE, B. A., M. D., President of the Anthropological Society, etc. A good deal of this pamphlet is occupied with the question as to whether the existence of light hair and eyes among the Jews is compatible with purity of race. It seems unquestionable that xanthous Jews exist into whom there has been no recent importation of Gentile blood: and the fact that these red-haired Jews are found in countries widely separated precludes the idea that any special local cause, such as climate, has wrought the change. Dr. Beddoe suggests three possible sources of early admixture, which he thinks may explain the xanthous element observed among living Jews. The Jews may have intermixed with inhabitants of Spain long before the Babylonian captivity, or with the Phoenicians; or, lastly, the known amalgamation of the Idumeans with the Jews may be the source whence the red hair, which probably characterised that people, has been derived."
It's interesting that red hair is related to the Phoenicians in this passage. Likewise the relation to the Idumeans. The Idumeans are contiguous with the Edomites, who were said to descend from Esau, the elder son of the biblical Isaac. Esau was said to have been born "red all over". The word Edom is likewise said to mean "red" in Hebrew. It's also worth noting the similar sounding name Adam, which is often equated with red earth.

According to the Wikipedia page for the word Adamah (meaning ground or earth):

Adam (אדם) literally means "red", and there is an etymological connection between adam and adamah, adamah designating "red clay" or "red ground" in a non-theological context.


A few further notes from the Wikipedia page that may be worth noting:

The word adam has no feminine form in Hebrew, but if it did, it would be adamah.

There is [an] additional relationship between the words adam and adamah and the word dam (דם), meaning blood.

More Red-Haired Mummies

A brief reference to Egyptian mummies with "reddish" hair now. From an 1878 work titled: Egyptian Belief and Modern Thought. The particular passage comes from a section on the origins of the Egyptians.
"From the ethnological work of Dr. Barnard Davis, as descriptive of Egyptian mummies, these extracts are taken: "Short locks of flowing, reddish brown hair. - Has long reddish brown hair, which is plaited and fastened behind. - Orthognathous face, which is almost in the form of a triangle. - Has a narrow face, with long, slender nose. - Hair in short, very curly, reddish brown locks. - A large head, with a long pointed nose, and rather broad face."
Not especially revealing, and the context is a little vague, but it's yet another example to add to our collection.

Red Hair & The Red Heifer

Back to longer posts now. This one is a passage about the "red heifer". I'll share the entire thing for the sake of context. It's also quite an interesting read in general.

It's from:

"HEIFER parah, or rather parah adummah, "the red heifer," a young cow used in sacrifice at the Temple. Moses and Aaron were instructed to deliver the Divine command to the children of Israel, that they should procure a "red heifer without spot," that is, one that was entirely red, without one spot of any other colour, "free from blemish, and on which the yoke had never yet come," that is, which had never yet been employed in ploughing the ground, or in any other work. The animal was to be delivered to the priest, who was to lead her forth out of the camp, and there to slay her; the priest was then to take the blood with his finger, and sprinkle it seven times before the tabernacle; and afterwards to burn the carcass; then to take cedar wood and hyssop, and scarlet wood, and cast them into the flames. The ashes were to be gathered up, and preserved in a secure and clean place, for the use of the congregation, by the sprinkling of which ashes in water it became a water of separation. Spencer and some other writers think that the selection of this victim was in opposition to the superstitions of Egypt. The Egyptians never sacrificed cows, which were sacred to Isis; the Israelites generally offered males in sacrifice, but on this occasion they were directed to choose a heifer; it was also to be red, which is the only occasion on which any direction is given in this respect, a circumstance to which the priests of Egypt gave much attention*. Red hair was held in abhorrence by them, as they believed Typhon, the Satan of their religious system, to be of that colour, and to whom, according to Plutarch, they offered red bulls in sacrifice.

It is thought that a red heifer, under this law, was sacrificed every year, and the ashes distributed to all the towns and cities of Israel. But the Rabbins differ on this point, which is thus stated by Maimonides: - "Nine red heifers have been sacrificed between the delivering of this precept and the desolation of the second temple. Our master, Moses, sacrificed the first; Ezra offered up the second; and seven more were slain during the period which elapsed from the time of Ezra to the destruction of the (second) temple; the tenth, King Messiah himself shall sacrifice; by his speedy manifestation he shall cause great joy. Amen: may he come quickly."

With regard to not putting under yoke animals offered in sacrifice, it may be observed, this was a custom among the Egyptians, Greeks, and Romans, as they considered animals that had been made to serve other purposes were unworthy to be offered to the gods.

*Sir William Ouseley has with considerable ability discussed this subject, and shown that almost all over the East idols were painted or smeared with red."

A Spanish Proverb About Red Hair

Another super short one (I knew these finds weren't all long). This time it's simply an old Spanish saying about redheads. It comes from an English/Spanish dictionary published in 1726.

"A lame ass, and a red-hair'd man, and the devil, are all one."

For some similarly unflattering sayings about red hair, only this time from Italy, see below.

Monday, November 28, 2022

Jumbee Jamaican Red-Haired Devil

Another shorty. Here we have a piece linking the devil with red hair. It's from an 18th century letter which states that the slave population of Jamaica believed that after death men would..
"..go down below into the Earth, to live along with Jumbee, viz. the Devil, whom they insist upon, to be of neither White nor Black, but of a red Mullatto Colour, without Horns, Tail, or cloven Hoofs: However, they all agree, that he has long Red Hair growing on his Breast."

The letter can be found as part of the collection of letters that make up the following work:

Some More 19th Century Mentions of Red Hair

A couple of quick quotes about red hair from 19th century ethnographers now. Yet again, the language is somewhat dated, so apologies. Of course, it's worth remembering that although these writers held views or used language that we would now find unpalatable it doesn't necessarily mean they were horrible, hate-filled people. In days gone by it wasn't uncommon for men to view women as less intelligent, but that didn't mean they didn't love their wives and daughters dearly. So we should perhaps bear this in mind and extend some tolerance to them as we seek tolerance ourselves.

The first quote comes from an 1850 work titled The Races of Man And Their Geographical Distribution.

"The fact of red hair occurring amongst the Negroes of Congo has been alluded to by Blumenbach, who saw many Mulattoes with red hair."

The second quote, or passage rather, comes from a book published in 1878 titled The Temperaments.

"In regard to red hair, observation has convinced us that it is closely related, both physiologically and as a sign of Temperament and character, to black hair. In the crosses of the Negro with the Caucasian, black hair is the most persistent sign of the dark blood, holding its place after all trace of the African taint has disappeared from the complexion, and never furnishing examples of even the darkest brown, much less of yellow, but even in mulattoes (half-bloods) red hair or wool not very infrequently appears. Of this we have observed several instances in Charleston, S. C., and elsewhere."

Language aside both quotes are interesting as they speak to this notion that red hair occurs in mixed populations.

Saturday, November 26, 2022

Charles I - Auburn Hair ?

A neat little one now, concerning Charles I. As ever with these 19th century publications the language is a little dated, so forgive it. The passage is from an 1881 publication titled The Sunday Magazine, and the particular article in which it's found is titled "Grey Hairs", by a Rev. J. G. Wood.
"The amount of red colouring matter in hair, for example, is very great, and often exists where it is unsuspected. Some years ago when red hair was at a discount, and ladies with black hair heaped derision on their red-haired sisters, they would not have felt much flattered if they had been told that their hair had quite as much of the red pigment as that of the most fiery-locked of the despised "carrots."

Yet the hair of William Rufus and of the blackest negro possess an equal amount of red matter, only in the latter the red is over-powered by the addition of black particles.

In the true auburn hair, where the black colouring matter is replaced by brown, the red is visible through the darker hue, and in the sunbeams makes the hair look as if mixed with threads of shining gold. In the museum at Oxford there is a lock of hair taken from the head of Charles I. Though it has lain for so many years in the tomb, it still retains its bright auburn, and in the sunlight the golden threads sparkle in it as if it belonged to a young girl."

I've included the first two paragraphs as they relate to another topic discussed on these pages. Namely that people with dark hair have the red pigment in their hair too, it's just masked or "over-powered" by the darker pigment. Today we would say that people with darker hair also have the pheomelanin that makes red hair red, but that they also have high levels of eumelanin that mask it - which redheads do not have (or have, but to a relatively lower extent).

As for Charles the First we already have a redhead page for him.

See here: https://redheadsinhistory.blogspot.com/2018/06/226-charles-i-of-england.html

It would perhaps be a little cheeky to claim him as a redhead, but it does seem that his hair at least had some reddish elements. I also came across this article which supposedly shows some of his hair.


The article states that one Sir Henry Halford, a physician to King George III, who was part of a group that inspected the newly discovered tomb of Charles back in 1813, described the hair as:

"..thick at the back part of the head and, in appearance, nearly black. A portion of it, which has since been cleaned and dried, is of a beautiful dark brown colour. That of the beard was a redder brown."

So in this account the hair is somewhat darker. In the images accompanying the article the hair also appears fairly dark, though it's often hard to judge such images due to variations in lighting and photographic methods. So doubt is the order of the day. Especially given that the tomb of Charles was said to have been opened on the 1st of April, 1813 (!)

Mary, Queen of Scots: The Auburn Wig

This one will be short :)

It follows on from that last post. At the very start of the section about hair we referenced there was a mention of Mary, Queen of Scots, and her hair. We've discussed Mary and her possible red hair many times on here before, so I couldn't forgo this one.

This time it's stated that Mary had "dark and luxurious tresses", but wore "an auburn wig" over the top.

As with the last post the writing has a certain charm, so I'll quote in full.
THOUGH THE HAIR is certainly the loveliest frame that could be devised for the human face, and though we see it constantly in an infinite number of beautiful colours and shades, it is a curious fact that few women are quite satisfied with the colour of their own hair. Even those to whom nature has been as liberal in point of quality as in that of quantity, think they might look better if there was "just one more shade of gold," or "a richer dash of chestnut," or "a more decided black," in the chevelure. Even, Mary Queen of Scots was dissatisfied with her dark and luxuriant tresses, scented always with violets, and wore over them an auburn wig, the colour fashionable in the time of la reine rousse, Elizabeth. The love of change extends from the dress to the hair itself, and some wilful beauties would like to wear a different coloured coiffure with each costume.
The idea that Mary wore a wig is not a new one (it's said that when she was executed her severed head dropped from her wig as the executioner tried to lift it aloft to the watching crowd). The above is no doubt following in that tradition. Given that the work we're quoting from here was published in 1882 and Mary died in 1587 this account doesn't really add anything new. It's interesting nonetheless though.

19th Century Fashion Tips For How To Wear Your Red Hair

Well, so much for this post being a short one. Honestly, I'm not planning this. I have a list of links, and my recollection was that most of the passages I'd came across in these old books and journals were rather short. That clearly isn't the case though. Especially so with this one.

Fortunately this one is a very pleasant read. Some of these 19th century writers had a very charming and conversational style. In fact, this one would make a nice little chapter in a book about red hair. It's from a publication called: Ward and Lock's Home Book (1882), and the passage concerned comes from a section of the work titled "Talks on the Toilet".

The title may sound a little comic to our modern ears, but back then of course the term toilet usually referred to a woman's dressing room. So the section concerns things such as advice on personal grooming and hair care, and is punctuated by quaint little images like this:

I came across a few other nice images in the publication, which I'll share at the end of this. A little reward for all the reading you're about to do. Again though, I thought this was quite a nice read, and I enjoyed reading it myself. I've even tried to keep the formatting true to the original. Hence why the paragraphs begin with a string of capitalised words.


From 'Talks on the Toilet', on the topic of red hair and how best to wear it.

RED HAIR CLAIMS our attention first for two reasons: 1st, that it always claims the attention first, and 2nd, that it belongs to the classification blonde, which gives us the colours most fashionable at the present day.

ENTER A ROOM in daylight (by artificial light red loses much of its ferocity), where there are women without bonnets or hats, and if there be one of them with bright, unmistakable red hair, she will stand out from the rest with a never-failing prominence which, if she be a pretty woman - and red-haired women have often great beauty of feature, and very often lovely complexions - is of the greatest advantage to her, socially speaking, and, if she is not pretty, an equal disadvantage. Notice a girls' school (ladies' school it is the snobbish fashion of the day to call them !) walking two and two along the road or street, and if there are one or two with red plaits visible at the back or a red fringe apparent in front, the eye picks them out in a moment from the dark-haired and the brown.

RED HAIR IS NOT admired at our end of the nineteenth century, except by the few who have the "courage of their opinions." With the exclusion of a peculiarly vivid orange variety, we give it as our unhesitating opinion that red hair is frequently artistically beautiful, and that it can be treated in two different ways - by similitude or by contrast - with such excellent effect that, could only the possessors of this maligned colour be induced universally to practise these modes of treatment, red hair would soon be as fashionable as it was in 1830, and for some years later. Were the colour more uncommon than it is, red hair would not, probably, need artifice to make it popular. It is usually very plentiful, and is sometimes very soft and fine, but its great disadvantage is that it is too often seen in company with more red hair of a different shade. It is much more difficult to treat it collectively than individually. That is really a clever girl who, with prononcé red hair, manages not only to make it look as picturesque as it ought to look, but contrives to individualize her own particular shade of red.

WHY IT SHOULD BE called "red" is difficult to imagine. Hair is never red. The shades that are called by that name are either yellow or orange.

In 1830 RED hair was so fashionable that possessors of the most magnificent chevelures of chestnut or black dyed these tresses red.

AT THE MEETING of a four-in-hand club that took place not long ago, a red-haired family was liberally scattered over the outside of one of the coaches. The effect of several different shades of yellow and orange was simply desperate. In one case the red was grizzled, gently shading off into the characterless grey that is the last fate of hair of this colour. In another its owner had shown it off to the very greatest disadvantage by wearing a very bright shade of blue in her ribbons. Her intention was good - the result disastrous. Another and younger sister wore a dress almost exactly matching her rosy locks, but brighter instead of paler. She thus rendered her rather pretty colouring pale, faint, and grey. We shall see, as we get on, what these girls ought to have done to render their "family" hair less conspicuous and more becoming.

THERE IS A WARM and lovely tinge of red, that the old masters loved to paint, and which the pre-Raphaelite faction of our own time adore. There are gold lights in it, bronze reflets (there is really no English word for reflets), and hints of brown in the shade. Such hair should always ripple and wave, or it loses half its loveliness. It should catch the light at many different angles, so that, like a diamond or an opal, it may display itself. In the sun, such hair is simply glorious. The Peter Bells of the world (and their name is legion) glance at it, call it red, recollect that red hair is not admired, and think no more of it than their prototype did of the yellow primrose. This shade of red is not common. It is sometimes seen with brown eyes, brown eyelashes, brown eyebrows, brunette colouring. Out of a strong light it is insignificant, and might be called straw-coloured. When it is perfectly straight it is insignificant. It should, therefore, be artificially waved, and arranged in wide, loose plaits. We have, alas! no recipe to offer for obtaining perpetual sunshine in our ile brumeuse, but a woman possessing hair like this may be forgiven if she sits on the lawn in summer without her hat, letting the little sunbeams make the best and the most of her "crown of glory."

THE COMMONER SHADES are more orange than yellow. Eve the worst of these may be cleverly managed in either of the two modes referred to some lines back; viz., by administering a treatment of similitude or one of contrast. "What! wear red with red hair?" someone asks, aghast. No, no; wear yellow, orange, amber, with what is called red hair. Gold - real gold, not gold-coloured ribbons and silks, which have not the true 'gold' shade -deprives red hair of a very large proportion of its aggressive redness. The difficultly is that none of the ornaments used at the present day are suitable in gold; that few persons can afford real gold, and that imitation is not to be thought of; and that bullion, when used decoratively, is nearly always mis-used, i.e., used too liberally, whether in furniture or dress. It appears to be one of those things which, like opium-eating or smoking, cannot be indulged in without excess.

ONCE A GILT chair gets into a drawing-room, more gilt chairs follow it, then a gilt table under the gilt-framed mirror; then comes an ebony and gold piano, an ebony and gold music-stool; and thus the mischief increases, until the eye has no rest from gold and black. It is like a spurious and cheap edition of the progress of King Midas.

A GOLD BAND on red hair has then, an excellent effect. An amber ribbon disposed either in fillets, if the shape of the head be good enough, or in small knots if the arrangement of the hair lends itself to them, will often serve to glorify rather dead-looking hair. The shade of amber must, however, be most judiciously selected. It should be just an idea lighter and brighter than the tint of the hair.

ABOUT SIX YEARS AGO - It became fashionable to wear very small knots of ribbon in the hair. These were composed of a piece of ribbon about two inches wide, and not more than five inches long, twisted round into very small compass. Through these a hairpin was pushed, and the knots were thus fastened into the coiffure. Never was a more becoming "trimming" invented for the head. When judiciously placed, the small knots served to indicate and emphasize the best points of the outline of the head, and when carefully chosen with respect to colour, the effect was excellent from every point of view. Brunettes may wear scarlet, crimson, maize, or dark blue, according to their complexion; blondes choosing pale, lavender, dull, deep reds, or amber.

THIS IS HOW RED hair and some kindred shades may be treated by similitude. We will now see how far the doctrine of contrast applies. There are very few shades that may be ventured upon in juxtaposition with so daring a colour as that called red, when exhibited in the hair. These, too, must be of the very palest. There are soft, nemophila blue, a greenish forget-me-not blue, also a still paler greenish evening-sky-blue, all of which go admirably with the most garish shades of red hair. Pinks and red must be abjured. Very pale lavender has an excellent effect. In the evening, white flowers are charming in red hair, more especially when arranged in sprays. When red hair is wavy, and falls in pretty lines, so as to catch the light becomingly, these colours may be used very sparingly; but when the hair is straight, lank, uninteresting, it may with excellent effect be almost entirely covered with one of the handkerchief caps of soft silk now again in fashion.

WE ONCE NOTICED very red hair tied back with a crimson ribbon. The effect ought to have been terrible; it was, on the contrary, admirable, but then, the wearer was a child of ten, with an exquisite complexion, the soft pearly white tints that accompany red hair so often, with faint pink touches on cheeks and lips, and eyelashes darker than the hair. We do not advise our rousses to try the experiment if they have left behind them the "wild freshness of morning." It would be a little risqué.



And now the promised pictures.

This first illustration is titled the toilet, so quite literally illustrates what a lady's toilet or dressing room would've commonly looked like back then. The hair of the girl seated is not quite red, but near enough; more a dark chestnut or brown.

This next one is a little redder, and gives a similar sense of the era this home book was published in. The title is the nursery.

Finally, we have another illustration similar to the one shown at the start. The text reads: FASHIONABLE HAT in 1801.

Very Jane Austen.

Thursday, November 24, 2022

Frizzy Red Hair in Ancient Egypt

I promised a bite-sized post at the end of that last article. However, this one will also be a little long. It's a passage from a publication titled The Journal of the Anthropological Institute of Great Britain and Ireland - Volume 18 (1889) and I didn't want to clip it down. Some of the language is a little dated, so apologies. It concerns the melting pot that was ancient Egypt though, so it follows on quite neatly from yesterday.

Beginning page 215:
"Khama. The ancient name of Soleb on the Nile in Nubia, where there is a celebrated temple of Thothmes III. Here we have the chief of Khama making his offering with the commander of Kush and another. 
One of the most important figures in this tomb is that of an Ethiopian Queen, in a chariot drawn by two oxen, white, pied or clouded with black, a kind still found in Abyssinia, as Mr Houghton remarks in the "Bible Educator." The Queen's complexion is reddish brown. Her face is now injured, but from the engravings it appears to have been well formed with regular profile. In these pictures Hui is receiving the subjects of his province, and, as Mariette says, "People of every shade of complexion and of every race present themselves before him. Some are Negroes with distinctive features strongly marked; others are of the Negro type, but brown in colour; others, also copper-coloured, have more northerly features; there are also men of a red tint like the Egyptians, mingled with white-complexioned women."
Mr Petrie's notes of colour are most carefully discriminated and very valuable. It is very curious to find in the paintings blacks with red hair. It is hard to suppose that this does not prove red hair in the original, and it reminds us of a strange race in Nubia, whom Miss Edwards describes as black in complexion, but with "light blue eyes and frizzy red hair," at Derr, the captial of Nubia; and higher up "fair" families, whose hideous light hair and blue eyes (grafted on brown-black skins) date back to Bosnian forefathers of 300 years ago. These people are "immensely proud of their alien blood, and think themselves quite beautiful".
Now I think there must have been red-haired blacks, and perhaps blonde-haired, in old Pharaonic days. As to blue eyes, in the painting, we have grey-eyed blacks, but not (I think) with red hair. In photo. 790 we have five negroes on ship-board of whom three are black with red hair, dotted with black (? "frizzy red hair,") and two are red-skinned with yellow hair.
Apart from blue eyes, however, we must take into account the dyeing of hair, and General Haig has kindly written to me: "I observed that you remark upon the curious fact of some of the Pun races being depicted with red hair, or brown, which there seems at first no way of accounting for. The Somalis constantly dye their hair these colours, I think, by plastering it with lime. This peculiarity strikes one much on arriving at Aden, where there are some thousands of these people. The hair is frizzly, and no doubt black by nature, and I suppose the colours mentioned are esteemed a beauty among them and obtained as described."

The custom described by General Haig may be as old as the use of antimony for the eyes, or henna for red staining. I think caustic alkali has been used in this country for brightening the colour of dark brown hair. Of course, it will not account for the light-blue eyes of Miss Edwards' hideous dandies. Mr. Villiers Stuart says that he has "seen red-haired mummies in the crocodile-caverns of Abou-faida." Mr. Petrie suggests that this hair may be white stained in some way."

A slightly long read, but worthy of record nonetheless (perhaps the next one will be nice and short).

Wednesday, November 23, 2022

..From the Pages of a Political Hoax

Whilst searching for information about red hair I recently came across a 19th century work titled: Miscegenation: The Theory of the Blending of the Races. On first appearance it comes across as a typical publication from the period. However, the work was later revealed to be a hoax. Being the product of Democrats that were trying to score political points over their Republican opponents, who at the time - the work was published in 1864 - were busy ending slavery in the United States.

It was essentially a work designed to scare more traditional American voters into believing that the eradication of slavery was part of a wider plot to actively push for the mixing of racial groups. The author of the text advocating that it was the destiny of America to mirror the melting pot of ancient Egypt.
"Egypt calls to us from her tombs, telling us that the secret of progress and of a final perfected humanity lies in the principle of Miscegenation."
The book was also clearly written with a very wry sense of humour - and like all successful hoaxes it was believable and convincing enough that its intended audience would take it for real. Whilst at the same time containing in-jokes that more worldly readers, or those reading with the knowledge it was a hoax would enjoy.

For those with that particular type of sense of humour (like me) the short chapter titled Heart-Histories of the White Daughters of the South is particularly amusing. Other than that and a few other choice passages though the work reads largely as a serious effort. So it's easy to see why people would take it as given. In fact, on reading it one wonders if the author, though mocking, is actually sympathetic to argument the work puts forth. A kind of double-hoax from the elite movers and shakers of the time perhaps - it certainly wouldn't be the first time something serious was initially put forth as a suggestion in jest. Either way it shows that gotcha-type hoaxes aren't anything new, and that they existed long before the age of internet memes.

Red Hair

Anyway, the red hair. Serious or otherwise I may as well mention the few references that pop up.

Though the work was indeed a hoax it nevertheless took its material from the wider society of the time, so the speculations about red hair mentioned seem real enough. Firstly this long, though interesting passage found on page 7. It's a quote from a Professor Draper who states:
"It must be observed how forcibly the doctrine here urged of the passage of man from one complexion to another, and through successively different forms of skull in the course of ages, is illustrated by the singular circumstance to which attention has of late years been directed, of the gradual disappearance of the red-haired and blue-eyed men from Europe. Less than two thousand years ago the Roman authors bear their concurrent testimony to the fact, that the inhabitants of Britain, Gaul, and a large portion of Germany, were of this kind. But no one would accept such a description as correct in our own times. The true reason is that the red-haired man has been slowly changing to get into correspondence with the conditions that have been introduced through the gradual spread of civilization - conditions of a purely physical kind, and with which the darker man was more in unison."
This is interesting as it notes what we have discussed on these pages before. Namely the fact that the ancient Roman writers described the Germanic and British peoples as specifically red or fair-haired - though this clearly isn't the case now. It's an odd anomaly. Possible explanations have included population displacement, mistranslation of the texts, or questions about the authenticity of the texts themselves. However, this idea of "slowly changing to get into correspondence with the conditions ..of civilization" seems to be a new one.

The other mention of red hair worth noting comes on page 31.
"The red hair and beard so common in Ireland is a sure indication of the southern origin of its people. When a very dark people move to a northern climate the physiological change effected by the temperature is to convert the black into red hair. The red may change in the course of many generations into light or sandy, but the red which comes from a very dark people is not to be confounded with blonde or light-brown which distinguishes a northern people."
..and that's it for this peculiar work. I found a few more quotes about red hair in some other works during my wanderings around Google Books, so I'll be sharing those in future posts. Hopefully they'll be a little more bitesize than this one.

Sunday, November 20, 2022

Is the Mona Lisa red-haired?

The other day I came across this high-resolution picture of the Mona Lisa. Since the file is very heavy, I won't upload it here. If you zoom in, you will notice that the sitter's hair is reddish, especially on the left side of the painting. 


Is this the original colouring of the painting or is the reddish hue due to conservation treatments and cleaning? 

Probably the answer to this question also lies in the identity of the woman portrayed. As you know, the official theory is that she is Lisa Gherardini, wife of wealthy Florentine silk merchant Francesco del Giocondo. The painting is thought to have been commissioned for their new home, and to celebrate the birth of their second son, Andrea. The Italian name for the painting, La Gioconda, means 'jocund' ('happy' or 'jovial') or, literally, 'the jocund one', a pun on the feminine form of Lisa's married name, Giocondo. In French, the title La Joconde has the same meaning.

The other theory considered by art historians concerns Isabella d'Este. Isabella d'Este (1474–1539) was Margravine of Mantua and the most famous patron of the arts of her time. Leonardo was her sister Beatrice d'Este's court painter in the Duchy of Milan. In 1499, after the expulsion of the Sforza (his employers), Leonardo fled to the court of Isabella d'Este. Over a period of three months, Leonardo made several portrait drawings of Isabella (documented by letters). One of these drawings, a profile drawing, is preserved in the Louvre and shows similarities.

From the subsequent years 1501 to 1506, several letters survive in which Isabella—directly and through agents—pursued Leonardo with demands for the promised execution of the (oil) portrait (and her agents promised or also confirmed Leonardo's commencement). The Mona Lisa falls precisely within this period. The hierarchical society of the Renaissance makes the portrait of an upper-class noblewoman more likely than the wife of a modestly merchant.

Other unofficial theories refer to Cecilia Gallerani (the famous Lady with an Ermine),  Costanza d'Avalos, Duchess of Francavilla, Caterina Sforza and Leonardo himself. 

Lady with an Ermine

La dama dei gelsomini, presumed portrait of Caterina Sforza by Lorenzo di Credi

Another interesting theory refers to Isabella of Aragon. This presupposes that the painting took place in the 1490s, during da Vinci's Milanese period, but the painting has officially been dated as later. However, according to Renaissance historian Maike Vogt-Luerssen, not only the sitter is Isabella of Aragon, but she and Leonardo got married after the death of Isabella's husband, Gian Galeazzo Sforza. They had five children (two sons and three daughters). If you scroll down this page you'll find many painting potraying Isabella of Aragon (at least according to Vogt-Lüerssen) and, at the bottom, several books and articles (in English and in German) about the theory Isabella of Aragon/Mona Lisa. 

Portrait of a Lady, by Bernardino Luini (presumed portrait of Isabella of Aragon) 

Also, this is a portrait by Raffaello Sanzio, allegedly depicting Isabella of Aragon as Mona Lisa.


A possible evidence of the sitter being red-haired is this copy of the Mona Lisa, commonly attributed to Leonardo's co-worker Gian Giacomo Caprotti da Oreno, better known as Salaì. Here the red colour is more obvious.

Wednesday, November 16, 2022

Ginger cats, the most intelligent of all!

Those of you who have or have had red cats will no doubt have noticed that they are much more intelligent than cats of other colours (mine are 😁).
The interesting thing is that the famous ethologist Desmond Morris has also noticed this.
Here is an English translation of a couple of paragraphs from this article.


"Is there a relationship between the colours of cats and their character?
To answer this question, the well-known British ethologist Desmond Morris has carried out a very thorough study that relates the colour of a cat's coat to its personality. And the results are truly fascinating!

The basic consideration from which Morris started is very simple: cats of the same colour tend to develop very similar behaviour. The next step was to observe numerous similar specimens to try to associate each colour with a precise character. This led to some interesting considerations.


Red cats 

They are the most intelligent. It is no coincidence that the very few cat trainers on the world stage favour them for their acts in circus and television shows. It is difficult to say to what such intelligence is due. Desmond Morris has a theory of his own: accustomed from an early age to being the centre of attention because of their unusual and striking colour, red kittens are said to have developed a kind of 'egocentrism' that makes them more receptive and in need of attention than others."


And what do you think is the reason for this higher intelligence of red cats? 😸

Monday, November 14, 2022

Red Hair in Art: Giovanni Ambrogio de Predis

Giovanni Ambrogio de Predis (c. 1455 – c. 1508) was an Italian Renaissance painter, illuminator and designer of coins active in Milan. Ambrogio gained a reputation as a portraitist, including as a painter of miniatures, at the court of Ludovico Sforza.

Little is known about his training. He initially worked as an illuminator in collaboration with his half-brother Cristoforo. He produced seven miniatures for a Book of Hours in 1472 (the work no longer exists) and again for a Book of Hours in 1474. He then worked on designs for the local mint in Milan along with his brother Bernardino. He subsequently worked for the court of the Sforzas for a number of years, mainly as a portrait painter. It is during this time that he offered hospitality to Leonardo da Vinci when he arrived in Milan.
A marriage was arranged between Emperor Maximilian I and Bianca Maria Sforza, niece of Ludovico il Moro, but before the former would commit to the arrangement, he requested a portrait of his proposed bride. The portrait of Bianca Maria was painted by Ambrogio, who followed her to Innsbruck after the wedding in 1493, and there he worked for several years in the lady's service before returning to Milan, where he designed coins for the mint, designed and supervised tapestry works, and prepared stage scenery. In 1502 he produced his only surviving signed and dated work, a portrait of the Emperor Maximilian. Much of Ambrogio de Predis's artistic output remains in dispute.

He and his brother Evangelista are known to have collaborated with Leonardo da Vinci on the painting of the Virgin of the Rocks for the altarpiece in the chapel of the Confraternity of the Immaculate Conception at the Church of San Francesco Grande, Milan. Leonardo painted the central panel with the Virgin of the Rocks (National Gallery, London), while the two brothers created the side panels. 

Portrait of a Lady (assumed to be Beatrice d'Este)

Portrait of Gian Galeazzo Visconti

Girl with Cherries

Portrait of an Unknown Woman

Portrait of Bianca Maria Sforza

Portrait of Maximilian I, Holy Roman Emperor

Portrait of a Young Man (Gian Galeazzo Sforza?), attributed to de Predis

Red Hair in Art: Giovanni Antonio Boltraffio

Giovanni Antonio Boltraffio (or Beltraffio) (1466 or 1467 – 1516) was an Italian painter of the High Renaissance from Lombardy, who worked in the studio of Leonardo da Vinci. Boltraffio and Bernardino Luini are the strongest artistic personalities to emerge from Leonardo's studio. According to Giorgio Vasari, he was of an aristocratic family and was born in Milan.

Madonna and Child

Female Portrait

Portrait of a Young Man 

Portrait of a Young Man

Portrait of a Young Boy (sometimes identified with Francesco Maria Sforza, son of Isabella of Aragon and Gian Galeazzo Sforza)

Virgin and Child

Pala Casio (Madonna and child with St Giovanni Battista, St Sebastian and two donors)

Detail of the above

Madonna and Child