Friday, July 14, 2017

Red Hair in Adverts: Update 14/07/17

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

The following two come from advertisements for Tesco.

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

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

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

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

Thursday, June 1, 2017

Redhead Facebook Page :)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Tuesday, May 9, 2017

Red Hair in the Works of George Orwell

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Friday, May 5, 2017

Hairy Magdalene - Red Hair, Sasquatch Style

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

Penitent Mary Magdalene by Francesco Gessi

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

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

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

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

A carved depiction of Mary Magdalene

Santa Maria Magdalena

St. Mary Magdalene circa 1385-1390

The Ascension of Mary Magdalene by Antonio Vivarini

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

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

Saint Mary Magdalene

Thursday, May 4, 2017

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

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

Red Hair & The Red Knight

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

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

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