· Vatican City ·



Hair talks and everyone has a story to tell

 I capelli parlano  e tutti hanno una storia da raccontare  DCM-007
01 July 2023

At some point for Elena Martelli, hair became the center of her life. Not by choice. She lost hers and now knows, she says, that hair “is the soul of the body”. She realized this when she found it again, one night before she went to sleep. While scratching the back of her neck, just an itch, her fingertips “ran into the first strands”. This was a reconquest rather than a rebirth. Because “the ,[hair] loss had casually thrown me among the punished, prisoners and prisoners of war, slaves, and traitors, harlots, madwomen, and the possessed (the female gender prevails)”.

It is from life that Elena Martelli’s first book All”aria sparsi [Scattered in the air] (Il Saggiatore) was premised and presented as an artistic, literary, mythological and emotional history of our hair, its language and imagery. An important and beautiful book, a private tale that becomes public, written with that precise and elegant touch, of which the author – an important journalist, educated and prepared - is a master.

“There is not a hair on any head that does not have a story to tell”. Moreover, what stories we encounter in the 256 fast-flowing pages plus another four of useful bibliography.  Martelli delves into the Bible, encountering the story of the twins Jacob the hairless and Esau the hairy, and that of Samson, the hero who derives his legendary strength from his hair, which was never cut because of his vow to become a nazirite. The volume recounts the story of hair as religious identity, the tonsure of monks and the peót - the ringlets or curls of Orthodox Jews. As a coercive tool, as women considered heretics, or witches, who are shaved completely before torture to make them confess. It relates hair to sin, patriarchy, morality, and power.

This is a dense book; and it is also full of anecdotes, curiosities, and literary, historical, and even geographical reviews - which are always beneficial. The capei d’oro a l’aura sparsi [her gold hair scatter in the breeze], those of Laura sung by Francesco Petrarch, inspired the book and gave it its title. With Berenice’s Hair one can brush up on the myth of the queen of Egypt as told in Callimachus’s Pometto and a little astronomy. In addition, you can brush up on Maupassant, and also on the history of the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, the golden age of wigs that were ‘scaffolded’, and the installation of which “took time and the preparations took days”.

However, who invented the bob-cut, ‘the helmet’? There are two people who contend for that honor, but it seems to have been invented in 1909 by Antoni Cierpolikowski, a Pole who moved to Paris and was inspired by Joan of Arc. (pin)