L a - b e a u t é - s a u v e r a - l e - m o n d e ~ D o s t o ï e v s k i

L a - b e a u t é - s a u v e r a - l e - m o n d e  ~  D o s t o ï e v s k i

Wednesday, August 26, 2015

Fluffy-headed gentlemen - portraits by Largillière, circa 1694-1730

(Detail of below.)

There is much confusion about the wearing of wigs in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries. Contrary to general understanding, not everyone wore a white, powdered wig. Women didn't wear full wigs at all - unless they'd lost their own hair - but only added false hair when the styles demanded inordinate height or volume. And many men had their own natural hair dressed and powdered, especially in the latter part of the eighteenth century. But there certainly was a period, from the second half of the seventeenth century to the first few decades of the next, when most men of the upper classes shaved their heads and wore large and long, usually powdered wigs. "Periwigs", "full-bottom(ed) wigs" - the best were made of human hair, the others of horse or goat hair - were so extreme that there was no pretense at all that the gentleman who sported it had grown it. And portraits of the time quite boldly represent them for exactly what they were: gloriously false.

Portrait of a Man, circa 1714-16.
Portrait of a Man, circa 1715.
Portrait of a Gentleman, nd.
Portrait of the Marquis d'Havrincourt, nd.
Jacques-Antoine Arlaud copying the Leda of Michelangelo, 1714.
Jean Thierry, Sculptor, nd.
Jacques Roettiers de la Tour, 1730. (As here, a bit of shaved scalp is often to be seen in this period's wig-burdened portraits.)
Jean de La Fontaine, at the age of seventy-three, 1694.
Charles de France, duc de Berry, grandson of Louis XIV, circa 1710.
Portrait of an Officer, circa 1714.
Field Marshal Erik Sparre, circa 1710. (Sparre was perhaps preoccupied with military matters, as he doesn't seem to have his wig on straight.)
Portrait of a Man in a Purple Robe, circa 1700.
Jean Pupil de Craponne, 1708.


  1. I assume this started for practical reasons? lice, etc?

    1. I read it was because of Louis XIII starting to lose his hair. But I'm not sure I believe that. His son and the later Stuarts certainly ran with it as a "look", though, and took it to the extreme. Keeping down the lice population was a nice benefit, at any rate, though I understand the wigs could be pretty buggy on their own.