Hair-do of the week - Marie de France, 1381

This marble bust was made in circa 1381 by Jean de Liège and portrays Marie de France (1327-1341) as a part of a tomb effigy which was (partly) destroyed during the French Revolution at Île-de-France, Saint-Denis, Abbey Church of Saint-Denis, Chapel of Notre-Dame-la-Blanche

We have no reason to believe that this is any way resembling the woman who had died forty years prior to the making of this portrait of her, just 14 years old. It is in the same way no reason to believe that this hair-do was not the fashion of 1380's and not the 1340's. In the Middle Ages there was no longing for making things look old and outdated. This is mostly evident in the paintings of the Virgin Mary who is always portrayed as a noble lady in the latest fashion. If you made a memorial portrait of a dead French princess there was really no need to make her look anything but contemporary.

The hair-dos of this time were rather simple, even if you were a princess. The hair was combed and fitted close to the head, with a parting at the middle of the head. It was then gathered in two thick braids at the back of the head. Braids is extremely common during the Middle Ages, be you noble or peasant. These were then pulled forward and fastened at the tiara she is wearing and by doing so create a frame for the face. The tiara is now just a band, but the holes suggest that there at some time had been some kind of metal and/or jewellery fastened there making it resemble a real tiara. It was a simple hair-do, but one befitting royalty. Originally the head was resting on a cushion - but that is now destroyed.

Not much is known of this princess, apart from when she lived and died. She was the daughter of Charles IV of France, known as the fair, and his third wife Jeanne d'Évreux and she had one younger sister, Blanche, and no brothers.

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