The Cult of Red Hair
When thinking of
the Pre-Raphaelite woman, why is it that naturally red tresses come to mind?
Dante Gabrielle Rossetti inscribed The mouth that has been kissed loses not its freshness; still it renews itself even as does the moon. on the back of his painting, Bocca Baciata. The model that sat for this well-known Pre-Raphaelite piece was Fanny Cornforth, born Sarah Cox in the countryside surrounding London in 1824.
To me, Fanny is the embodiment of the ideal redheaded woman. She left her life in the country far behind for the bustle and excitement of London. She was confident and outwardly sexual in life, with no qualms about her lifestyle as a prostitute, common yet controversial for the times among polite society. However it was not polite society she catered to (except of course in matters of business) but the company of Bohemians, artists young and full of vigor challenging the art movement of the times. 19th century London was a hive of social activity and historically it was the period of the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood, a brotherhood of painters, poets and critics who strongly reacted against established Victorian conventions of academic art by producing romantic, mythological works.
Vivacious and louder than life, Fanny loved to indulge and befriend her young artist friends in return for favors and gifts. With their help, she was able to create a boarding house-come-brothel and made quite a nice living for herself in London, not to mention the notoriety she undoubtedly cultivated for herself there. She eventually took a fancy to Dante Rossetti. Its rumored that she first got his attention by pelting the unsuspecting artist with peanuts in the Cremhorne Gardens.
I like to imagine he saw in her loud red hair and her bawdy personality the epitome of a woman freed from all convention and inhibition. Little is known about Fanny. Information is scarce on her life, so she remains forever enigmatic as she does in so many of Rossettis paintings: a sexually realized woman full of mystery, unbound by the expectations of society. There is very little information about the relationship surviving to this day although it is known she remained Rossettis companion and housekeeper into old age.
Although a remarkably more controversial model than Elizabeth Siddal or Jane Morris, Fanny was not only the subject of some of Dantes most astonishing works but it seems she was forgotten before her time. She modeled for the painting of Lady Lilith, the first wife of Adam in Jewish mythology and seen as the personification of lust. Sibylla Palmifera was conceived as an opposing piece to Lady Lilith and painted from the model Alexa Wilding. It represented Souls Beauty, a sonnet Rossetti wrote to accompany his painting. The modestly dressed Sibyl sits in a temple surrounded by the emblems of Love: the Cupid, Death: the Skull, and Mystery: the Sphinx. In contrast, Lilith admires herself in a mirror, the attribute of vanity. Initially the contrast between the pictures was very marked, but in 1872-3 Rossetti replaced Fannys head with the head of Alexa at the request of a buyer, and the original concept was destroyed. She is the sumptuous and inviting woman in paintings such as the above mentioned Bocca Botacia and Lady Lilith as well as The Blue Bower and others. The Blue Bower was Rossettis last major portrait of Fanny Cornforth.
This shocking shade of Titian red is a vibrant and stunning color on the right skin tone and with the right make up or even just for shock value (*my* favorite kind). These instructions are to help you maintain that fierce red hair looking its absolute best.
First, some basic info on hair coloring. Red hair dye is among the hardest to maintain for a simple reason. When you artificially color your hair with red dye, you are introducing color molecules that expand with the aid of hydrogen peroxide and trap themselves under the cuticle layer in the cortex. I wont go into too much detail, suffice to say that artificial reds are the smallest molecules and are the easiest to dislodge and wash out. This isnt really a problem if you are prepared with a little foresight and planning.
First, you should find and invest in a semi-permanent rinse that matches your choice of red as closely as possible. It is very important that you do not choose a color that needs to be mixed with a developer of any kind whatsoever. There are many that claim to be less damaging than a permanent dye and this is true. The problem is that even though they are mild, it is still a chemical formula and the constant need to refresh red dyes will eventually lead to excessive dryness and damage. You are better off using colors readily available like Clairol Glints, Special Effects, and Manic Panic. These are not very long lasting on their own but are a perfect pick-me-up in between dyes and are very safe to use as often as you like. Always use gloves and wear your least favorite clothes. (your little sisters Ricky Martin T-shirt will do nicely, and he would look good bleedingbut I digress)
The second piece of advice is to use a shampoo and conditioner that supports your hair color by having a light color to them as well. Always choose a shampoo and conditioner one shade lighter if you cannot find the exact shade. Because this is the product you will most likely use the most in maintaining your red; if its too dark it will distort your red. There are many good ones that are easy to come by at pharmacies, drug stores, beauty outlets and places such as Cosmetics Plus, Duane Reade and Rickys. Avoid ArtTech. This is an expensive salon product that needs its own special conditioner, and must be formulated at a salon. For the money, it is a terrible product and will leave your hair dry and damaged (and you a lot poorer). You are actually a lot better off with the less expensive variety.
Third is the actual dying process. For this, I recommend the first time be done by a salon professional, or someone you trust. This particular shade of Titian red is a level 7 (dark to medium blonde) and a red/orange overtone. To decide the best place to begin for your individual hair to achieve Fannys fabulous red, you will need to obtain a color chart and using the natural shades, have a friend or professional (they will have their own charts of course) determine your natural base. This is an international numbering system that is understood all over the world so any hairstylist you speak to will understand your needs.
If your hair is as dark or darker than say a level 5 you will need to pre-lighten you hair to get to a level 7, as 20 or even 30 volume peroxide may not get you there alone. The darker you are the more this is true. The difference here is that you do not need to bleach your hair out to blonde first; in fact this would cause more problems than it solves. All you need to do is a procedure called base-breaking. This is simple but does require either help or excellent lighting. Take a warm color that is 2-3 levels lighter than your natural base and mix with 20-volume peroxide as you would to dye as usual. Apply (with help) as fast as you can to the root area, (first timers to red or color in general, do the mids and ends first, and the roots only for the last 5-7 minutes.) You want the color of your hair to shift a bit and be lighter and warmer. Dont worry if its a bit orange looking, thats the point. You just want it to shift. Before it gets too light, wash it off, shampoo and condition and dry gently before you apply your red dye.
Remember you want to use a level 7 with red/orange tones to get this particular shade of Titian red. Use 20 volume and apply to the roots (first timers apply to the mids and ends again and to the roots for the last 10-15 minutes out of a total of 45 minutes.) and if you have remaining color add some conditioner and water (just a bit) and ease gently through the ends or use one of the semi-permanent color mentioned above. Wash the color out after 45 minutes. 30 minutes can sometimes not be enough for vibrant colors and it will not be any more damaging to leave it in another 15 minutes.
Last minute advice: Dont let your roots go any longer than an inch and a half. The further away from the scalp, you are susceptible to color banding, the problem of the color being activated by the body heat from the scalp. This is the reason you never apply first time reds to the scalp first.
Dont let it get too faded in between dying. It might seem a waste to refresh the color, but this will not only re-enforce your red as the pigment builds up and stains over time, but it will ensure your red is always beautifully rich and vibrant without losing the strength of your own hair.
Conditioning treatments should be done a week prior to your color, not after or on the day. The reason is that the color pigment is unstable for the first 12-24 hours and a heavy treatment with excessive moisture sitting on the hair for a long time after coloring will rinse out your red that much faster. This is true of absolutely any artificial color, especially Manic Panics and the like.