The Middle Ages were a time of great innovation, artistic vigor, and cultural richness. Appearances mattered a great deal during this vibrant era and hair was a key marker of the dynamism and sophistication of the period. Hair became ever more central to religious iconography, from Mary Magdalen to the Virgin Mary, while vernacular poets embellished their verses with descriptions of hairstyles both humble and elaborate, and merchants imported the finest hair products from great distances.
Drawing on a wealth of visual, textual, and object sources, the volume examines how hairstyles and their representations developed—often to a degree of dazzling complexity—between the years AD 800 and AD 1450. From wimpled matrons and tonsured monks to adorned noblewomen, hair is revealed as a potent cultural symbol of gender, age, sexuality, health, class, and race.
Illustrated with approximately 80 images, A Cultural History of Hair in the Middle Ages brings together leading scholars to present an overview of the period with essays on politics, science, religion, fashion, beauty, the visual arts, and popular culture.