4 May 2021

Our Lady's hair

I have occasionally noticed that late Medieval representations of our most blessed Lady often show her bare-headed and with her hair over her shoulders and arms. I think of the Marian banner in St John's College (reproduced in Duffy Fires); of the statue of the Assumption in the church at Sandford upon Thames.

And the Roman Pontifical, describing a Queen approaching her Coronation, says that she comes crine soluto. The records of the Coronations of Good Queen Mary and of Bloody Bess agree: she wears her hair loose and 'decently let down on her shoulders'.

I know what you're going to say to me: "Don't be silly ... they were going to be needing to balance a crown upon their heads, so of course hats and fancy hair-does were excluded ... do try to be practical ..."

I suppose you're right ... if, perhaps, a trifle prosaic.

But I still can't help wondering whether there might be some association of a bare female head with regality. 

Matthew Sarbiewski, a Pole and one of the associates of Urban VIII in the importation of Horatian poetics into the Christian Latin of the 1620s, describes the head of the Mother of God: 

Tu [his friend Rosa] rerum dominam canes,

     Et sparsam Zephyrorum arbitrio comam

Nudis ludere bracchiis,

     Et nimbos volucrum fundere crinium ... 


Once I Was A Clever Boy said...

I think the point is brides wore their hair loose as a sign of virginity - married women put their hair up. So loose hair is appropriate for the BVM. Queens wore their hair loose at their coronations - even if it meant adding false tresses - as can be seen with the drawing of Queen Anne Neville with King Richard III, in the coin portraits of Queen Mary I and in the coronation portrait of Queen Elizabeth I as, I construe it, a symbol of betrothal to the realm - coronation was analogous to marriage.

Howard said...

"But if a woman have long hair, it is a glory to her: for her hair is given her for a covering."