Saturday, January 28, 2023

Judas's Red Hair, by Paull Franklin Baum

The other day I came across an article entitled Judas's Red Hair, from The Journal of English and Germanic Philology, Jul., 1922, Vol. 21, No. 3 (Jul., 1922), pp. 520-529.

The author, Paull Franklin Baum, tries to understand where the popular belief that Judas had red hair comes from. As you know, in fact, in the Bible there is no reference to the colour of Judas' hair. In reality, Baum does not clarify the matter much and concludes that the Judas/red hair association is probably due both to the ambivalence of the colour red and to this hair colour being rather rare and the result of a "degeneration" (the concept of genetic mutation was probably not yet known).

Jan van Dornicke, The Arrest of Christ


The interesting thing about the article are the various historical references to the expression "Judas' colour" and several proverbs about red hair (unfortunately not translated by the author).
Here is a passage on the expression Judas colour (pages 521/522):

The phrase Judas color and the adjective Judas-colored seem to have been current chiefly among the Elizabethan dramatists and their imitators. The earliest example I have met is in Kyd's Spanish Tragedy: "And let their bear des be of ludas his owne collour." In As You Like It, Act III, sc. iv, Rosalind says: "His hair is of the very dissembling colour." And Celia replies: "Something browner than Judas's." Other instances are: "Sure that was Judas with the red beard," in Middleton's Chaste Maid in Cheapside, III, ii; "That's he in the ludas beard," in Robert Daborne's A Christian Turn'd Turke, I, iv; "I ever thought by his beard he would prove a Judas," in Marston's The Insatiate Countess, II, ii. Dryden writes in Amboyna: "There's treason in that Judas-colour'd beard"; and his lines on Tonson are well known:
"With leering looks, bull-fac'd and freckled fair,
With frowsy pores poisoning the ambient air,
With two left legs, and Judas-colour'd hair."
Sir Roger L'Estrange inserted an allusion to Judas's hair in his translation of Quevedo's Sueños:
"I next went down a pair of Stairs into a huge Cellar, where I saw Men burn ing in unquenchable Fire, and one of them Roaring, Cry'd out, I never over sold; I never sold, but at Conscionable Rates; Why am I punished thus? I durst have sworn it had been Judas; but going nearer to him, to see if he had a Red Head, I found him to be a Merchant of my Acquaintance."
In the poets of the last century there are occasional examples of this notion; as in Tennyson's Queen Mary, written in the Elizabethan manner:
"First Citizen. I thought this Philip had been one of those black devils of Spain, but he hath a yellow beard.
Second Citizen. Not red like Iscariot's.
First Citizen. Like a carrots, as thou say'st. (Ill, i)."
And R. S. Hawker, the Cornish poet, has: "The sickly hue of vile Iscariot's hair."
A variation of the usual tradition appears in the North of England, that Judas had black hair and a red beard. This matches the German proverb: "Schwarzer Kopf, rother Bart, bose Art," and the French “Barbe rouge et noirs cheveux Guettes t'en, si tu peux.


The Warendorfer Altar, by Geza Jaszai   

My translation of the proverbs above:

Schwarzer Kopf, rother Bart, bose Art (Black head, red beard, evil manner)
- Barbe rouge et noirs cheveux, Guettes t'en, si tu peux (Red beard and black hair, Watch out, if you can). 

Here are two more German proverbs in the text:

- Roter Bart, untreue Art (Red beard, unfaithful kind).
- Hüet dich vor aim roten Walhen, weissen Franzosen, schwarzen Teutschen (Beware of red Gauls, white Frenchmen, black Germans)

There are also quotes in Latin:

- Rufus quidam ventriosus, crassis suris, of Plautus (Pseud. IV, 7, 110) (Redhead, a certain bellied, fat pig).

"And it is significant that the earliest documentary evidence of the proverb as proverb appears in a fragment of the Ruotlieb, a Latin poem of the early eleventh century by an anonymous Tegernsee monk, who may well - there is evidence of other kinds pointing to southern influence there - have had this notion from Italy: "Non tibi sit rufus unquam specialis amicus" is one of the twelve saws with which the young man is rewarded." page 525 (Don't ever have a redhead as your special friend).
The Betrayal of Christ, by Hans Holbein 

The interesting thing is that, if on the one hand we have the popular tradition that paints Judas with red hair, on the other we have (as you certainly know if you follow this blog) many painters who paint both Jesus and the Madonna with this hair colour . Indeed, certainly the Jesuses and Madonnas with red hair are much more numerous than the Judas with red hair. So it is as if even for red hair there was that dichotomy that the author describes at the beginning of the article for the colour red. Perhaps those painters knew something that, at a popular level, was not known? Or perhaps they made a distinction between carrot red (with negative connotations) and copper red/auburn, with more positive connotations?

The Betrayal of Christ, by Caspar Isenmann