Wednesday, 29 January 2020

Some Revolutionaries and their wigs

Wigs in the Early Revolution

The Revolution from the first involved issues of dress. The controversy which surrounded the opening of the Estates-General on 5th May 1789 highlighted the antiquated costumes of the three Estates.  As one anonymous deputy remarked, the dress code underlined the puerility of Court etiquette and degraded occasion into a "mascarade indécente". (Quoted Ribeira, p.46).  The sombre black uniform of the Third Estate served to underscore its inferior status. Some deputies refused to conform and wore ordinary clothes, even coloured coats.   On 15th October 1789 the Constituent Assembly formally voted to abandon all uniform; a few days later the obligation to wear clerical dress was also lifted.  David chose to depict participants in the Tennis Court Oath in English style suits and greatcoats.  Among the deputies, as on the streets, there was sartorial confusion.  The English visitor Mary Berry, wrote of the Assembly in Paris in 1790 that she had never seen "such a set of shabby, ill-dressed, strange-looking people".
Miss Berry's Journal (1865) p.217-8.

Wigs at first remained neutral in meaning.  The powdered wig, like the sword, was a symbol of nobility, but it also formed part of the everyday attire of the lawyers and well-to-do bourgeois of the Third Estate.  Amy Freund (2008)  has studied the series of portraits of deputies engraved by Nicolas-Francois Levachez  from 1789 onwards; many posed in their ordinary street clothes; the famous farmer-deputy Michel Gérard affected rural simplicity with his simple brown coat and bare head.  However, the majority,  still wore wigs or else their own curled and powdered hair.


Aileen Ribeiro, Fashion in the French Revolution (Batsford, 1988)

Amy Freund, "The legislative body:  print portraits of the National Assembly, 1789-1791",  Eighteenth-Century Studies, 2008, Vol. 41(3) p.337-358.

In this 1839 painting Couder imagines the deputies of the Third immaculately turned out, mostly in the long shimmering perruques naturelles of the legal profession.  He is almost certainly inaccurate.

Auguste Couder, The Opening of the Estate-General at Versailles, 5th March 1789. Collections. Versailles.

Prominent wigwearers among the early Revolutionaries:

Mirabeau, scion of the aristocracy, was one of comparatively few deputies to pose for Levachez  in the uniform of the Third Estate (albeit in a nonchalant state of disorder).   In the Assembly he emphasised the need for uniformity of dress; though his vision of sartorial equality was by no means austere:  "The Third Estate were affronted at not being able to wear plumes or lace if they so desired".

Mirabeau himself was hardly ever to be seen without his immense frizzy perruque à la grecque.  The wig  served to frame his splendidly ugly face and ensuring he was always a conspicuous presence.  This was probably intentional - as  may be surmised from Mirabeau's comments in his Memoirs on the wigs of the time of Louis XIV:

My grandfather had a beautiful head of hair;  nevertheless, at the age of five and twenty he wore a wig, which appears the most extraordinary ornament of those days.  His motive was to render his features imposing by making himself look older.... A man left off his hair to wear a wig when he wished to impose upon himself, and upon others, sense of superior dignity .
Memoirs of Mirabeau (p.83 note)

Sylvain Bailly

Bailly, an man in his 50s at the start of the Revolution, teamed plain but elegant dress with a magnificent trademark perruque naturelle.  The long following hair at the rear, with its "tress" of curls,  can be seen in various portraits  and engravings and, most strikingly of all, in his busts by Houdon and Deseine. 

Bailly obviously liked his wigs.  Among contemporaries, he was also known as the last man in France to have sported the classic perruque à la régence with its bourse and two ribbons fastened at the front of the neck.
(Mullin, Magasin Encyclopédique, (1807) p.293)

A portrait in the Carnavalet [left] show a comparatively youthful Bailly in just such a wig.

Bust of Bailly by Louis-Pierre Deseine, 1789. Musée Carnavalet


Lafayette was another unrepentant wigwearer.  He cut a dashing figure in his National Guard uniform and perruque -  and he knew it.  He is often credited with popularising the perruque "à boucles en rouleau" which he almost invariably wore, sometimes with a bourse and sometimes with a long thin beribboned queue.  The main body of the wig, puffed up in the all-over frizz  fashionable in the 1780s, added volume to his long thin face .

Drawing after the physionotrace made by Edme Queneday in September 1789.
Lafayette in October 1790. By Jean-Baptiste Weyler,
Originally from La Grange Bléneau Auctioned in 2010.

One can see why Lafayette stuck firmly to his wig. As the portrait of 1779 by Charles Willson Peale at Mount Vernon shows, even as a very young man he had sparse hair and a high forehead.  

It is quite startling to first encounter the Lafayette of the 1820s, wearing his own hair in a short dark bob.  He has now contrived to grow his hair down over his forehead (or maybe sports a discreet hairpiece?)

Lafayette in 1822 by Ary Scheffer (on Wikimedia)

Brissot de Warville, by François
Bonneville, c.1790.
(Musée Carnavalet, Paris)
Wigs in the later Revolution 

By the middle of 1791, supporters of the Revolution already often wore their hair cut short and unpowdered, a style which later became fashionable for men and women as the coiffure à la Titus.  Among the deputies, it was Brissot, in imitation of the English Roundheads, who first made a point of cutting his hair short and appearing without powder. It is reported that those who followed his example were at first mocked, but the "tête patriotique" soon became accepted. It was introduced into the clubs and Committees, then taken up by members of the Convention. 
Jean-Michel-Constant Leber, Notice sur l'habillement et les modes des français Collection des meilleurs dissertations  vol. 10,, (1838), p.411/

Wigs began to be denounced on ideological grounds:

On 10 August 1792 the Assembly forbade the wearing of wigs in the name of equality of appearances.  However, it is not certain whether this was intended general ruling or applicable only to that sitting. 
(Ref from: Paul Gerbod, Histoire de la Coiffure et des Coiffeurs (Paris: Larousse, 1995), p.129. Is it  possible to check this?).

The Girondist deputy for the Meurth, the surgeon Jean-Baptiste Salles (1759-94), is recorded as having 
spoken against wigs to universal applause:
All exterior signs which distinguishes one man from another must disappear.  It is after this incontestable principle that I denounce the use of wigs....Did Scaevola, Brutus, Scipio, Cato, wear wigs? The invention of the wig being very-aristocratic and tending  to destroy the principle of equality in a free country, I demand that it be suppressed.
Quoted by the abbé Gaume in La Révolution: recherches historiques sur l'origine et la propagation du mal en Europe, vol. 3(1856), p.260.  (Where is the original of this speech?)

It was no doubt in part because the symbolism of Classical Republican dress was particularly associated with the Girondin deputies that radicals like Danton and Robespierre continued to wear their Ancien régime costumes and wigs.

The Perruque "jacobine":

The characteristic haircut adopted by supporters of the Jacobins was not short, but involved long straight hair with a central parting.  The more follically-challenged, like Billaud-Varenne,  wore a  perruque or toupe "à la jacobine":

The year 1792 saw a new sort of hairstyle.  At that time the majority of men in France  adopted a hairstyle which resembled that of Christ, who in his images wears long hair, parted in the middle and falling sparsely onto his shoulders.  This fashion was introduced by revolutionary personalities such as the journalist Carra, whose name it took.  Until the end of 1793, the Jacobins wore this hairstyle;  those who did not have enough of their own hair covered their head with a wig of long straight black hair; as did Billaud-Varennes, who could be encountered every day during the September Massacres clearly recognisable "in his little puce-coloured jacket and his black wig".
Augustin Cabanès, La névrose révolutionnaire (1906), p.387
Helen Maria Williams observed that Robespierre "far from being involved in a black wig" still wore his hair neatly arranged and powdered.


Billaud's famous wig is sometimes referred to as yellow or ginger; he was even characterised as "le tigre à perruque jaune"; but this is an error; contemporaries agree that the wig was black; his complexion rather than his hair was "yellowish".

On 1st Frimaire Year II (21st November 1793) the Commune formally forbade the wearing of perruques dites jacobines, on the grounds that disloyal citizens wore a Jacobin wig in Paris but their own hair in the country. 
Moniteur, November 1793:
Compare the denuncation of Hérault de Séchelles's mission in the Haut-Rhin: in Paris he wore a perruque jacobine, but in the departments he disported himself "en ailes de pigeon".

According to Larousse, the suppression of the Jacobin wig prompted the hairdresser Duplan to supply a short black wig to the actor Talma who played Titus in Voltaire's Brutus, hence giving rise to the  coiffure à la Titus.  This scenario seems a little dubious, though Duplan was certainly the chief exponent of the new hairstyle.

Monday, 27 January 2020

More notable wigwearers

Here are a few more anecdotes concerning notable 18th-century wig-wearers. The following is translated / summarised from my latest favourite source of trivia, Sébastien Feuillet de Conches's Causeries d’un curieux.  Feuillet de Conches (1798-1887) was a diplomat, writer and formidable collector of all sorts of "stuff": paintings, books and curiosities of all kinds. 

Voltaire's wig

p.250: Two men, Bachaumont and Voltaire, persisted under Louis XV,  even, in the case of Voltaire, under Louis XVI, in wearing wigs from the bygone era of Louis XIV - the perruque classique à cinq écheveaux or even the cinq lauriers, invented by Nevers (1). Voltaire arrived in Paris to stay with the marquis de Villette on the last day of January 1778 but he only undertook his first full "toilette" at the end of March.
"He had a red coat trimmed with ermine ; a great wig à la Louis XIV, black, without powder, his lean face  so buried in it that one saw only his two eyes sparkling like coals.  His head was surmounted by a red cap in the shape of a crown, which seemed to be merely balanced there." [Bachaumont, Mémoires secrets, 28th March 1778.]

An hour after his arrival two months previously he had gone "jauntily and on foot" , to pay a visit to the comte d'Argental on the quai d'Orsay. He was so oddly dressed -  wrapped in a vast pelisse, his head in a woollen wig surmounted by a red fur-trimmed bonnet - that little children had taken him for a carnival character ("chienlit") and followed him shouting and taunting. [Mémoires secrets, 2nd February 1778].

(1) According to Grimm, the duc de Nevers invented a style of long wig, which was imitated  only by Bachaumont and Voltaire: "of the three wearers, only the last now persists.".
Correspondance litt., Vol. VII, June  1771 

[Voltaire's old-fashioned wigs were much remarked upon by visitors to Ferney:  The Duchess of Northumberland described his "small well-combed dark grizzle tie-wig without powder". Boswell at Christmas 1764 found him in "a slate-blue fine frieze greatcoat nightgown and a three-knotted wig"] 

The wigs of Rousseau and Maupertius

p.250  Rousseau adopted a little perruque à trois marteaux

p.251:  At his reception to the Académie française  Maupertius famously sported a short round wig composed of red hair with powdered yellow curls.  See Collini, Mon séjour aupres de Voltaire (1807) p.36.

The wigs of M. de Sartine

Sartine by  Joseph Boz, 1787
Musée Lambinet
p.253-4: It was hairdresser Le Gros (author of L'Art de la coiffure) who had the honour of working for the lieutenant general of police M. de Sartine, Secretary of State for the Navy at the start of the reign of Louis XVI. As far as fashions in hair were concerned, Sartine was the most coquettish man of the day and prided himself on having the best styled head in France.  He had a wig for the morning, a wig for the council chamber, a wig for the evening.  He even had a wig for good luck (a bonne fortune) with five little floating curls. Three wigmaker "valets de chambre" each had their department under the direction of Le Gros, who  alone enjoyed the privilege of dressing the hair of such a difficult and discerning master.  His hair was curled in the morning; his hair was curled in the evening.  If some accident disarranged the economy of his head during the day, the iron was in the fire (possibly literally?).  It was said that, when he was lieutenant of police, and had a criminal to interrogate, he would don a terrible wig with five serpent's tails which made him look like the three judges of Hell.  They nicknamed this instrument of anticipated torture la Sartine  or l'Inexorable.

[See also, the comments in Métra's Anecdotes secrètes: 
M. de Sartine has an incredible weakness of fine, well-curled and powdered wigs.  His collection of wigs - in-folio, in quarto, in-duodecimo, large and small format, some more square than others - amounts to sixty or eighty of the finest examples and the best makers. (Anecdotes secrètes, 30 October 1779)

Notice for the portrait of Sartine: ]

Diderot on the President de Brosses

p.254: Diderot could not get over the immense wigs which weighed down the magistrates of the Parlement of Paris and the provincial parlements. His correspondant Charles de Brosses made fun of the Doge of Genoa and his senators hidden under their vast perruques quarrées.  However, when he became president of the Parlement of Dijon, he too found himself obliged to don a heavy wig. Diderot found it impossible to take him seriously in this absurd costume: 

 The President de Brosses, who enjoys my respect in his ordinary clothes, makes me die of laughter in his habit de palais.  How can one look at him, without the corners of one's mouth turning up? His jolly little head, with it ironic and satiric expression, is lost in an immense forest of hair which overwhelms him;  and this forest descends left and right to take possession of three-quarters of the rest of his small figure. (Comment in the Salon of 1765).


Félix-Sébastien Feuillet de Conches, Causeries d’un curieux vol.2 (1862), p.250-54.

Saturday, 25 January 2020

A satire on wigs

L'enciclopédie perruquiere . Ouvrage curieux a l'usage de toutes sortes de têtes, enrichi de figures en taille-douce. Par M Beaumont, coëffeur dans les Quinze-Vingts

A Amsterdam. Et se trouve a Paris, chez l'auteur. Et chez Hochereau, libraire à la descente du Pont Neuf au Phenix. M. DCC. LVII

The Encyclopédie perruquière was a jeu d'esprit of 1757 by the lawyer and satirist Jean-Henri Marchand. Intended as a parody of the more pedestrian articles in the Encyclopédie, the work featured  illustrations of no less than forty-five (largely spurious) wigs.

 According to Grimm the piece was forgotten in eight days (Correspondance littéraire, January 1766). However, it was described in the Année littéraire  as one of the best "pieces of buffoonery" to appear for a long time and it was well-enough received for Marchand to publish a second edition in 1766. Certainly the joke would not have been lost on Marchand's readers: there was now a wig for every occasion, every profession, and every type of physiognomy.

The following summary is taken from the Année littéraire

The present work is one of the most amusing pieces of buffoonery that  has appeared for some time. It consists of a Dedication, of 7 pages, to the "illustrious and celebrated poet Monsieur André Perruquier", a Preface of 34 pages, forty-five engraved heads with wigs and a Postscript of 3 pages.  The author uses the name of Sieur Beaumont, Hairdresser, who is a real person, in order to allow full liberty to his imagination.  Despite the tone of carnival burlesque, this little Brochure of full of entertaining passages, imagination and wit;  in certain places, you find an ingenious parody of articles which appear in the famous Encyclopédie. 

The Dedicatory Epistle compliments M. André on a fine tragedy he has composed concerning the Lisbon Earthquake. "You 
shave the whiskers off the most famous poets of our time. ..Posterity will assign you a distinguished place on Parnassus.  Far removed from the caustic Boileau-Despréaux, your entertainments will powder Apollo, add curls to the Muses and refresh the mane of Pegasus"....The writer then offers to contribute to a subscription so that the Community can immortalise André with a plaster bust  on the Quai des Morfondus or Quinze-Vingt .... "Your agreement will ensure the support of the Public, not all of which is composed entirely of wigmaker's dummy heads.....You have gained more as the poet of wigmakers, than the wigmaker of poets, for I know that we are all at risk of being powdered white in comparison with you."

"M. Beaumont" begins his Preface by informing his reader how he took up the profession of Perruquier.  He recounts his wanderings in provincial villages and towns, and the exploits of his razor and curling tongs on land and sea.  He relates how he finally settled in Paris where, over several years, he worked for more than thirty different masters; in this way he got to know the fashions, nuances and delicacies of his art.  He did not confine himself to men's heads: still more agreeably, women's heads demanded his attention and zeal.  His profession conferred certain advantages, for he was able to participate in the mysteries of the toilette, with all it entertainments; often he was entrusted with amorous commissions, which he carried out with some success. 

Finally M, Beaumont, like M. André, became the proprietor of a Wigmaker's shop.  However, since he had no literary ambitions, he confined his ambition to perfecting his knowledge of wigs.  
He observed  the various different physiognomies and identified the hairstyles most suited them.  Individuals who are jolly / miserable / mad / serious / cantankerous / young /  old / healthy / sick / spotty / fat / thin / with wide or narrow foreheads / brunette, blond / chestnut or red-headed, cannot all be catered for in a uniform manner. There are different nuances for every category and M. Beaumont has studied them all with care.

In addition there are variations based on profession and circumstance.  A Churchwarden or a Musketeer must preserve his character; and a wig for a wedding is different from one for a funeral.

M. Beaumont then went in search of further enlightenment: 

"Wanting to join theory to practice, I consulted the Dictionnaire Encyclopédique, a treasury of knowledge which must immortalise its authors and the century we live in".  [He cites the article ACCOMMODAGE (vol. 1, p.74) which provided only a brief description of how to curl and powder hair.]  "This definition did not furnish me with the  in-depth knowledge I had hoped for, though I admired the authors' accuracy and attention to detail.!

In default of books that could help, M. Beaumont therefore set about his own research.  
By his own admission,  he achieved great knowledge in his art; indeed so high was his reputation, that he flattered himself the Encyclopedists would choose him for the great and important articles PERRUQUE, PERRUQUIER.  His name would appear on the glorious list of illustrious persons  who have worked on this Dictionary of genius.  But, whether through spite, or through ignorance of his ability, they  left him to suffer in obscurity.  It is this which determined him to give to the public his Encyclopédie perruquière, of which he has the glory to be the sole inventor, writer and artist.

This first part, adorned with forty-five diagrams, includes only wigs with sidepieces, as worn by young men.  The author hopes to complete the work at a future date by presenting other styles:  perruques naissantes, perruques quarrées, perruques à trois marteaux,  Chancellières,  Bonnets,  Brigadières, perruques d'Abbés, Financières, wigs made of wire wool, wood, glass, cow's tails; wigs of horsehair, women's wigs, and even les Moutonnes.  Fine heads, mad heads, green heads, heads with no brains, bird heads, weathercock heads - in short all the heads in the world apart from those of Choirboys and  Muhammadans - must applaud an accessory which protects the skull and compliments the features.  This is the plan which M. Beaumont sets himself, for the sole benefit of public utility.  In effect, every man who desires to be well dressed will be able to consult this Encyclopedia and chose the most advantageous style for his face.

Our hairdresser knows that he takes a risk by appearing in print.  Jealous voices have said of M. André that he is is a Barber who scorches the French language; that the sentiments in his play are pulled out of someone's hair or that his only aim is to throw powder in one's eyes. But envy and malice will not stand in the way of the author's homage to the Muses....He is enchanted above all with the Opera...As is often said, one barber shaves another;  he proposes to ask M. André to take up his idea and embellish it with the charms of versification.  The subject of the Prologue is to be the opening of Pandora's Box from which come sickness and old age, the causes of hair loss.  Jupiter, to console mortals, sends them the gift of Industry to repair their miseries.  The five acts of the Ballet represent Adolescence, Youth, Manhood, Old Age and Decrepitude - portrayed by the tête naissante, the perruque en bourse, the perruque nouée, the perruque quarrée and, finally,  what are known in general terms as "old wigs".  A wig with a tonsure might fall in love with a feminine hairpiece....Wire wool wigs, calf's tails, Moutonnes, beehives,  "magpie nests" might conspire against good taste and elegance,  to be put to flight  by Artistry and good taste. This subject should prove both honourable and lucrative.  If some critic opposes the success of the work, let them be pitilessly soaped, shaved against the nap of their hair and submitted to the comb "à la Turque"

With regard to the 45 engravings, you must admire them in the work itself.  You will see forty-five different hairstyles and discover for yourself what they are all called,

The postscript remarks that no work deserves more to have both a preface and postscript since its subject is the representation and adornment of "faces".  Only  man has a face; other animals have a beak, a muzzle or a snout.  If the Public turn against the Author, he promises not to take vengeance like the barber of King Midas; he will console himself that  he has 
at least been useful to his colleagues, who can use his Brochure to make paper curlers.
Letter dated Paris, 10 February 1757.

                   Plate from the 1762 edition

A note on Jean-Henri Marchand

Marchand is one of those writers who was quite well-known in his lifetime but had since sunk into almost complete oblivion. He has recently been rescued  by Anne-Sophie Barrovecchio, who in 2004 published a critical edition of five of his admiring parodies of Voltaire.  Among them is Le tremblement de terre de Lisbonne (1755), a "tragedy in five acts", attributed to maitre André, perruquier.  Apparently the play was still being staged in 1804.

Not much known about Marchand's life. He was a Parisian barrister, with a talent for writing. In 13 July 1745, a correspondent of the President Bouhier, mentions that Marchaud was not a poet by profession but amused himself by penning verses with "prodigious facility".  He himself later boasted: "After devoting myself to works which were serious and none too agreeable, I took to writing down my thoughts with an uncommon ease, attributing to them no other merit than the amusement of my friends" ("To Myself", 1782)

 Later he left the bar to become one of the royal book censors for Jurisprudence -  surviving registers for 1769 show him to have been one of the most active of the 128 censors.  He lived in the Marais in the rue Michel-le-Comte where d'Alembert was a neighbour. A letter from Voltaire to François-Louis-Claude Marin, dated  5th May 1769,  notes that an avocat named Marchand had written to him, to inform him that he had dined with M. de Sartine [of wig fame!] in the company of one of Voltaire's relatives.  Apart from these few mentions, there is little more to tell.  Grimm records that shortly before his death the old freethinker was reduced to "perfect simplicity" and fell prey to unwanted attentions of the local curé of Saint-Nicolas-des-Champs.  He died "of old age" on 27th November 1785.

 It would seem that "le perruquier André" really existed. Charles André, born in  Langres in 1722, was a wigmaker in the rue de la Vannerie.  His various supposed compositions became something of a running joke.(Voltairomania, p.33-34)


Encyclopédie perruquière, 1st edition, 1757

2nd edition, 1762   

Voltairomania: l'avocat Jean-Henri Marchand face à Voltaire, edited by Anne-Sophie Barrovecchio, Université de Saint-Etienne, 2004 [extracts on Google Books]

Tuesday, 21 January 2020

Wigs of the Professions

The Church

The wearing of wigs by the clergy was almost universal by the beginning of the 18th century.  Several wigmakers in Paris already specialised in ecclesiastical wigs, notably M de la Roze in the rue Saint-André, who, according to a 1692 almanac, was renowned for his "perruques abbatiales" (Livre commode des adresses de Paris, p.40)

 The perruques d'abbé of the standard catalogue were short, simple affairs which differed from the bonnet laicque of the modest bourgeois  only by the addition of a slightly absurd tonsure. (The author of the Art du perruquier confides that this made them much more challenging to construct.)

Any moral reservations about clerical wigs would have disappeared from public view long ago had it not been for Jean-Baptiste Thiers's Histoire de perruques, published in 1692.  The redoubtable Thiers's irresistable mix of erudition and humour ensured that his work was reprinted and  referred to, even over a century later.  

The abbé Thiers, learned and zealous opponent of superstition and abuses in the Roman church, composed a book of almost five hundred  pages against the wigs of ecclesiastics.  He talked first about lay wigs, whose usage began in France in about 1629....numbers grew to such a degree that in 1659 an edict was passed creating two hundred barbers, bathhouse keepers and wigmakers.  It was only in 1660 that churchmen first wore wigs. The abbés, or those who called themselves such - the abbés of the Court, dandies and men of fashion, started to wear wigs;  these were short and were called perruques d'abbé.  The first to wear one was famous for his base intrigues, La Rivière, later bishop of Langres.

The abbé Thiers proves convincingly that wigs were condemned by the Church;  he cites  challenges, rulings, statutes of the synods, directed against clerical wigs, as well as various attacks - including violent ones -, trials, scandals and coups that have taken place.

The author enumerates the different sorts of wigs;  full wigs, also called in-folio; small wigs; wigs à la calotte, which are the oldest;  perruques de bichon; perruques à la moutonne; perruques d'abbé etc.
Histoire physique, civile et morale de Paris, Volume 6, 1839,

Theoretically canon law forbade priests to cover their heads whilst officiating. It seems that ecclesiastics habitually pleaded headaches or vulnerability to the cold - a feeble pretext, commented Molé, which had led to out-and-out conflict in certain dioceses (Molé, p.265)

 According to the Oratorian Pierre Lebrun:
Dispensation to wear a wig to the Altar ...should only be asked for in cases of serious inconvenience and then with clear limitations laid down as to length, curls, colour and secular styling;  otherwise there is a danger that the rules of canon law on modesty of hairstyle  will be violated entirely. Most people agree that it is less harmful to wear a cap during Mass than a wig, which is often seen as a mark of worldliness.  For this reason several cathedral chapters have forbidden all priests and deacons to officiate at the altar in the choir whilst wearing a wig. See Mr Thiers for relevant statutes, disputes and judgments. 
 Lebrun, Explication ....des prieres et des cérémonies de la Messe (1718), p.103 nt.

The interdiction remained theoretically in place. In 1769 Voltaire enjoyed himself hugely by trying to persuade Cardinal Bernis to seek papal dispensation for Father Adam to wear a wig, so that he could keep warm in church when saying Mass. 
Huber, Voltaire and Father Adam playing chess at Ferney
Perhaps, in a world of glacial churches and cheerless presbyteries, the need was not so far fetched. It is recorded that in 1794, Father Joseph Raoulx, martyr of the faith, suffered from such violent headaches that he was permitted to wear a wig in the tumbril on his way to the guillotine.


A series of medals ("jetons") commemorate the doyens of the Faculty of Medicine.  By end of the 17th century they are shown in enormous wigs.  With  E.-F. Geoffroy (1726-30) and his successors, the size is more modest but extravagant curls still sweep the shoulders -  as was the case with the wigs in the medical engravings of Hogarth.  At the mid-century Hyacinthe-Théodore Baron (1750-54) [left] wears an elaborate perruque à marteaux.  In later years, the wigs of the doyens were still elaborate, but generally shorter and more swept back in line with the fashions of the age.

 The Dictionaire des sciences médicales notes that certain elderly medical men persisted in wearing  massive old-fashioned wigs, of horsehair or black in colour, well into the new century.  Guérin, chief surgeon of the hôpital de la Charité and of the Gardes-Françaises, retained his until his death in 1742. Certain physicians affected such wigs as a protest against their diminished status under the Regency.

The Surgeons,  in contrast, eagerly adopted the fashions of the Regency era.  Maréchal, first surgeon of the young king, was the first among his colleagues to sport the splendid new wigs. His example was  was followed by his assistant François Gigot de Lapeyronie, painted by Rigaud in 1743 [right]. Portraits of later surgeons - .J.-L.Petit, Ladran fils, Levret, Lecat, Lafaye, Houstet - show the same adherence to modern styles.  The finest wigs of all among the surgeons belonged to La Martinière, Hévin and Louis.

For both physicians and surgeons, a fine wig soon became an essential accessory for the medical man in fashionable society, "the first item of a practitioner's equipment"." Choice was dictated by the wearer's purse.  The preferred wigs of doctors and surgeons  could be extremely expensive since they required "live" hair, prematurely grey for preference.  It was joked that  Bucquet and Vicq-d'Azyr (the profession's trend setters in the 1770s and '80s) had ruined the doctors and surgeons of Paris.

The common wig of the medical man was the perruque à trois marteaux.

Pupils and masters, candidates and senior doctors alike, all sported wigs:  "It was an amusing spectacle to see young men of eighteen or twenty lost in huge, magisterial wigs which contrasted singularly with their baby faces."

A few prominent doctors -  Antoine Petit,  Hallé, Corvisart - were considered eccentric because they insisted on wearing their own hair (presumably on their rounds, since they are bewigged in their portraits).  Corvisart was said to have been refused the post of doctor to the hôpital Necker, because Mme Necker refused point blank to appoint a man who was so badly coiffured.  During the Revolution, the profession generally abandoned their wigs and their black costumes:   Dr. Guillotin, for example, was well-known for his unadorned white hair.  The Dictionnaire of 1820 reports that there survived but one aged officier de santé in the Marais, whose black coat and tiered wig might serve to recall the sartorial traditions of the past.

"Perruque" in Dictionaire des sciences médicales, ed. Panckoucke, 41, 1820, p.9-10.

Paul Delaunay, La Vie médicale aux XVIe, XVIIe et XVIIie siècles (1935), p.154-5.

The Law

The magistrates of the Parlement of Paris in their wigs, 1786 

The gens de Robe were the only professionals to persist in wearing long wigs.  The majority of them adopted perruques quarrées, but they still took glory in hair that descended right down to their belts.  To make them more convenient they took the hair from each side and secured it at the back between the shoulders;  hence hairstyles "en pyramide renversée", or "les perruques pointues". (Molé, p.298-9). 

These perruque naturelle or perruque naissante were adopted as the preferred wig of "young men of the law" [Left: Dupaty].

As was the case with medical men, lesser legal functionaries - solicitors, notaries and clerks,  -  were obliged to wear black, so that their clothes were constantly soiled by powder and pomade.  The problem was made more acute because, unlike the "cheveux naissants" of magistrates and avocats, their wigs, whether round or knotted, reached only to their collar

The Army

Wigs were confined to army officers: from the mid-century soldiers let their hair grow and greased it to hold it in the regulation hairstyle. They would use chalk as hair powder.  Since the officer corps was part of aristocracy, it was never subject to strict regulation.

The German Nicolai, whose history of wigs translated into French in 1801, noted the tenacity of full wigs in senior military circles. Generals and their adjutants wore heavy wigs in the field: Prince Eugene, Marlborough, George II at Dettingen (1743), Charles of Lorraine at Czaslau (1742) and the Austrian Field-Marshal von Daun during the Seven Years War - all fought in perruques à noeud or perruques à l'Espagnole.  Officers of the French état-major, from the time of the Regency, until the mid-century  wore full perruques carrés, or à l'Espagnole, with long curls down their backs. These can be seen in portraits of the Marshals of France, Belle-Isle, de  Maillebois, de Noailles.  (Nicolai, p.140-141) 

The principal wig of the 17th-century officer corps, the perruque à la Brigadière, also continued to be worn into the new century: only fifty years ago, notes Nicolai, all senior French officers and many in Germany still wore this thick wig from the back of which hung two boudins, or tirebouchons.(Nicolai, p.143-144)  With its heavy rolled curls,  was said to make officers who used white powder look like “sheep on two legs”.  The Encyclopédie confirms: by the mid-century only “old military men” wore it.  The Brigadière was particularly associated with the grenadiers, who cut a fine figure on horseback in their wigs and bonnets.  See “Perruque à la brigadière”  in Dictionnaire de l'armée de la terre (1861)

The perruque à deux queues or à cadenettes, was another old-fashioned wig of military origin, in which the hair was confined into two long pendant plaits.  This style fell out of favour by the 1720s, though, according to Nicolai, it was retained by aging courtiers until the time of Louis XVI. The Encyclopédie quipped that it was much favoured by Germans:  no-one, young or old, dared to present himself before the Emperor Charles VI without his "deux queues". The maréchal de Richelieu, who was the ambassador to Vienna, wore a wig with two long queues to his belt, right to the end of his life.  At the coronation of Louis XVI in 1774 the marshals of France were privileged to appear in traditional wigs which boasted three "queues" [Maréchal de Brissac, left]

In contrast French cavalry officers wore short wigs with a bourse until the War of Austrian Succession . Marchand’s  satirical Encyclopédie perruquière of 1757 has two wigs (no. 16 à la Dragone and no.19 à la Mousquetaire) whose names suggested to Nicolai that the troops of the royal household also sported the bourse (Nicolai, p.142). From the mid-century,  however, many young officers abandoned wigs altogether and wore their own hair with a  tricorne hat. "Soldiers soon became tired of knotted styles, indeed they ceased to favour wigs at all. Perruques à la brigadière were soon put aside.  Officers, like the simple soldiers, started to wear their own hair" (Molé, p.297) An ordinance of 25 August 1767 confined the wearing of pigtails to cavalry officers.  The officers of the infantry wore the cadogan, often confined in a crapaud. There followed a whole series of ruling in 1775, 1777 and 1788 concerning military hairstyles;  finally in 1792 the ribboned pigtail imposed throughout the army.  During the Revolution, officers often favoured short hair whilst outside France, "the stiff pigtail has become the invariable hairstyle for all the armies of Europe" (Nicolai, p.145)

Christoph Friedrich Nicolai , Recherches historiques sur l'emploi des faux cheveux et des perruques dans les temps ancien et modernes (1801, French translation 1809).

Tuesday, 14 January 2020

Wigs from the Art du Perruquier and the Encyclopédie.

Plate from the Art du perruquier
The wigs of the mid-century are illuminated by two major technical publications, the Art du perruquier sponsored by the Académie des sciences, published in 1761 and the article "Perruquier" which appeared in Volume 12 of the Encyclopédie in December 1765. As the 19th-century historian of fashion Quicherat observed, the information for the Encyclopédie article was largely "furnished by the Corporation" (p.575-6). 

These quasi-official trade publications placed less emphasis that did Molé on the passing whims of the petits-maîtres. In the Art du perruquier Antoine Quarré observed that there were currently seven or eight basic types of wig available, some of which had gone out of vogue, though "like all fashions in France" they were likely to return to favour (p.6). The two sources both include engravings which showed the various different styles: these illustrations are very similar, even though the  plates for the Encyclopédie did not appear until 1771.The list of wigs is the same, save only that the Encyclopédie adds an extra, the perruque à cadogan

Non-literary sources confirm that these wigs do indeed represent the kind of choices available to respectable consumers, both in Paris and the provinces.  The Rouen wigmaker Le Tellier, whose mid-century account book has been studied by Michael Kwass, offered an array of shorter and neater wigs at a range of different prices. The cheapest was the perruque en bonnet - the simple round bob wig of the gentleman farmer, bourgeois, doctor or surgeon - at 12-20 livres. This was the wig that Rousseau adopted when he quit Parisian high society for the simple life of the countryside. The perruque à bourse, or bagwig, was also popular and inexpensive, although there were elegant versions as well.  Le Tellier's most expensive wig was a perruque à noeuds (27-35 livres), which featured knotted hair hanging down the back ( Kwass (2006) p.646-7)

Encyclopédie Plate VII
Types of 18th  century wigs.

1 and 2: Interior and exterior of a bonnet wig
3 and 4: Interior and exterior of a bag wig.  A the bag.  BB Buckle and strap.
5 and 6: Interior and exterior of a knotted wig.  AA the knots.  B. spiral curl.
7. Knot of the same wig.
8. Spiral curl of the same wig.
9. Bag, A. Rosette, BB. cords.
10. and 11:  Interior and exterior of a natural wig.
12 and 13: Exterior and interior of an abbé wig.  
AA the tonsure.
14 and 15:  Interior and exterior of a Brigadier wig.  AA spiral curls.  B. Rosette
16. Spiral curls of same wig.
17. Rosette of same wig.  AA cords.

Plate VIII
1 and 2:  Exterior and interior of wig with two tails.  AA Tails;  BB rosettes
3 and 4: Exterior and interior of a squared wig. AA spiral curl.
5 and 6: Interior and exterior of a Catogan wig.  AA the Catogan.

The remaining wigs on this page are women's.


The Wigs illustrated:

Bonnet or Perruque courte

A round wig, the hair lengthening to a greater or lesser degree at the back (Art du perruquier A; Encyclopédie, fig.1 and 2)

Perruque en bourse 

The classic bagwig, with long flat hair at the back (m) gathered at the nape of the neck  into a little bag of black taffeta (n).  According to Quarré, these wigs, together with the short "bonnet" wigs, were "very much in fashion" (Art du perruquier, B).  According to the Encyclopédie, it was "the most modern" of all.

The illustration in the Encyclopédie shows the additional strap and buckle (fig 3, BB) that was  required to hold the wig in place; the bourse has a decorative rosette (Fig 9, A) and chords to fasten it (BB).

Charles-Antoine Coypel, Portrait of
 the painter's brother, 1732 (Louvre)

It seems to me that these are already quite old-fashioned versions of the bonnet and  bourse wigs.  Even the bagwig is relatively loose fitting, the curls are unstructured and the front only lightly swept back.  

The portrait left, by Coypel, painted in 1732, shows exactly this style, with a  continuous set of fluffy curls round the front of the head, a hefty bourse and a decorative black ribbon at the neck.  Interestingly, the dark-haired sitter has elected to have his hair powdered to grey rather than bright white.

Perruque nouée

This style of wig was more elaborate than the first two and required more hair. It was  finished at the back on each side with long straight hair tied into a simple knot.(ss)  The space between the two side pieces was occupied by fat corkscrew of horsehair [sometimes known as le boudin - the sausage](r) 

The section marked "P" in the first illustration is the toupet, a section of flat hair which was a characteristic feature of the perruque nouée  and perruque quarrée. The term "toupet" was also used for the central part of a short wig which swept straight back from the forehead, to end in a queue or bourse.

(Art du perruquier, C; Encyclopédie: fig. 5 and 6; fig.7 and fig. 8 are the knot and corkscrew)

 Quarré comments that the perruque nouée was very popular, even though it was highly stylised and departed from nature.

Perruque d'abbé

The typical ecclesiastical wig, round in shape and similar to the bonnet, with the addition of a tonsure(w).  Quarré noted that it required quite a different method of construction.(Art du perruquier, D, Encyclopédie: fig. 12 and 13)

Perruque naturelle

This style was intended to imitate long natural hair.  At the front curls framed the wearer's face as in other wigs, but at the back the hair hung lose and straight to the centre of the back. It  was either finished to a point (a)  or squared off with a "tress", that is a row of small curls (bb). [The pointed version was also termed a perruque naissante.] This was the favoured wig of the "young men of the law".
(Art du perruquier E,  Encyclopédie: fig. 12 and 13)

Perruque quarrée

These wigs were similarly in construction to the perruques nouées, with the same big central toupet of horse hair (p) finished off with a boudin. Instead of of the knots, there were layers of tight curls which fell squarely onto the shoulders (tt).  This was the preferred wig of magistrates and "serious men".
(Art du perruquier F,  Encyclopédie, fig. 4 and 5)

Perruque à la Brigadière

 The perruque à la Brigadière was constructed like the bonnet and was finished with two corkscrews of horsehair(d), drawn together and tied with a rossette of black ribbon (e).  This was a traditional military wig;  Quarré notes that it was the wig favoured by horsemen, since it "sits well".
(Art du perruquier G,  Encyclopédie: fig. 14 and 15)

Perruques à cadenettes

This wig was similar to the perruque naturelle, except that the long hair was divided on each side and confined into two braids or "cadenettes"(rr). This, writes  Quarré, was an old-fashioned style, now rarely worn.
(Art du perruquier H,  Encyclopédie: fig. 1 and 2)

Perruques à catogan [or cadogan]

This wig, with its single club knot, was based on a military hairstyle, probably named after William Cadogan,  First Earl Cadogan (1671-1726).  It is mentioned in the Art du perruquier though an illustration is not included. According to Molé, the style enjoyed a brief vogue but intense vogue around the middle of the century,  when it was often worn in a round bag known as a crapaud (ie. a"toad").


Art du perruquier, in the series of Descriptions des Arts et Métiers, faites ou approuvées par messieurs de l'Académie Royale des Sciences , 1761.

Article "Perruque" from the Encyclopédie
Exhibition of plates at MIT Libraries:
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