After the decline of Rome, records are wanting which can throw light upon the history of the curl, but we may suppose that Gothic ideals, combined with the severity of early Christian rules, contrived to make the curl unpopular, if not improper.
The curl as to allow it to appear upon the heads of angels in the
The apostolic injunction upon the subject, no doubt, is familiar to all. Perhaps the coiffed head-dress which survives in conventual establishments is a relic of what was considered the correct thing for reputable women in the early centuries.
Fig. 2. An example of the curl as found in paintings of child angels and cherubs
Nature, of course, continued to supply the natural article, but the fairer half of the population coiffed it, flattened it, and put it out of sight. Not until the Renaissance did the curl again emerge into freedom.
The re-birth of the pagan ideals of beauty was a direct revolt against the Gothic notions which, so far as the hair is concerned, insisted upon plaits. The plait and the curl may be taken as indices of the contending schools which grew for centuries side by side, here and there merging, but for the most part keeping quite distinct, as distinct as did the architectural expression of the schools which is typified in Westminister Abbey and St. Paul's.
The Renaissance had its origin in Italy. It is to the Italians, therefore, that one looks for the curl's first manifestation, and in the paintings of Fra Lippo Lippi and Fra Angelico we find the curl so far sanctioned as to appear upon the heads of angels - a good example to mere mortals, surely (Figs. 1 and 2).
Fig. 3. The modern fashion of the curl was unknown in
Thus set free, the curl rioted over the land, and won its way gradually all over Europe. Venice seems to have taken to the tete bien bouclee with avidity, and youths of both sexes made the great Venetian republic a proverb with the rest of Europe.
In our country, it is not until the reign of Elizabeth that the fashion prevailed, and to Queen Bess (Fig 3.) may be traced the modern fashion of the curl. This " puissant prince" is represented in many of her portraits with her curled fringe, or taure, arranged with a geometrical precision which recalls to mind some of the Roman empresses.
Mary Queen of Scots used the same fashion as Queen Elizabeth, as can be seen in some of her later portraits, particularly in that which so strangely resembles Sarah Bernhardt, but her earlier mode was two puffs of little curls nestling beneath the wings of the coif (Fig. 4).
It may be safely asserted that it took two rival queens to set the new fashion in England, and amongst all the courageous acts of Elizabeth Tudor, the change from the flattened and almost abolished hair worn at her father's Court to the new French ringlets was not the least. It may be that this coiffure was adopted as a challenge to her fair rival at Holyrood, or it may be that it was to mar the new liberty of the Reformation; but it most probably came about just because the great queen thought that it suited her best.
Between the time of Elizabeth and Henrietta Maria the curl made tremendous progress. The beautiful queen of Charles I. brought the latest French fashions of coiffure to England from her father's Court, and in her case we have perhaps the apotheosis of the love-lock and those flattened curls which the French call accroche coeur, and which we call, less poetically, "kiss curls." same coiffure as Queen Elizabeth, but in some earlier portraits
Fig. 4. The ill-fared Mary Queen of Scots usually adopted the was depicted, as above, with two puffs of little curls nestling beneath the wings of the coif
These little flourishes, drawn, as it were, upon the alabaster forehead and temple, in a mixture of hair and pomatum, were sometimes miracles of achievement. The real free ringlets, together with these flattened curls, served the purpose of revealing the shape of the brow and forehead, and the brow took a high place in the inventory of a woman's charms three or four hundred years ago. Indeed, in an earlier age, it had been fashionable to shave back the hair to the level of the ears, and the transverse parting which is seen in this coiffure doubtless represents the limits of the queen's brow.
Fig. 5. The elaborate coiffure of forehead curls and ringlets introduced by Henrietta Maria, queen of Charles I.
Henrietta Maria's remarkable ringlets strove to reconcile the formal and the free with indifferent success (Fig 5).
Of course, we must remember that men wore long and curling locks in this reign, and were about to adopt the periwig. Women's curls, therefore, owing to the influence of male competition, were driven to extravagance.
The beauties of the court of the Merry Monarch wore their curls bunched and shortened for the most part, leaving the long curl to the men. (Fig. 6.)
To be continued.
Fig. 6. The coiffure of multitudinous short curls and ringlets adopted by the beauties of the Court of Charles II.