Eighteenth-Century Hair Curls

The image at the beginning of this video is Madame Grand by Elisabeth Vigée-Le Brun. The lovely young woman has curls formed by the papillote [butterfly] method, as explained and demonstrated in the video. As explained in the blurb by the Metropolitan Museum of Art (NYC), Madame Grand was born in India, married an Englishman named Grand, commenced “amorous” adventures in London and Calcutta, divorced her husband, and ended up marrying Talleyrand, a slippery figure who managed to succeed under the ancien régime, the Revolution, Napoleon, and the restored monarchy. Vigée-Le Brun is, of course, a fascinating figure in her own right (and had a small role in the Affair of the Diamond Necklace). There’s an interesting story there all by itself.

But more pertinent to this blog, I suppose, is the hairdressing method being demonstrated (I want to blog about 18th-century culture as well as history). It was apparently the height of fashion and innovation, and would have been used by many of the women (and men!) who played parts in the Affair. This method would have been used on wigs and natural hair–and on both men and women. The well-formed curls could have been pomaded and powdered as well, though this isn’t mentioned in the video.

Many thanks to Dian L Major, whose blogging and posting at AbsoluteWrite led me to this video.

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