Headgears, Headdress and Jewellery

Noble women at the imperial court in Constantinople are renowed for their extraordinary headgears. Eudocia, as Empress lady-in-waiting , is used to wear such type of headdresses, which, together with her complex hairdress and jewellery, supports her high ranking status.

Propoloma The word designs a type of trapezoidal hat. The first exemples in manuscript illuminations are found as early as the 11th c. During the 12th c., court ladies are frequently wearing them (1) (figure 1). Often, golden stripes of different orientations can be seen in front of them. These stripes are likely to be made of brocards. In our case, to shape the propoloma the way it looks in visual representation and in absence of archeological evidence, we assembled by sewing, 2 parts made of felt and cutted in the appropriate form. Others proposed that the propoloma consists in a truncated cone (1). In order to prevent felt’s relaxation, a border made of cotton ware was sewed at the base of the propoloma.

Headdress Classical roman women were known to wear complicated hairdress. This tradition remains alive during the 12th c. since both Empresses and court ladies display elaborate hairdresses (Figure 2-4). Such hairdresses are using plait, the unique way to elaborate complex hairdress and to allow the wearing of peculiar jewellery such as temple pendants (2). A later exemple of hairdress from the 14th c. and found in Mistra, also uses the plait and show the presence of thin cords (called cordonnet), maintaining the hair in place (3). In addition to these threads, roman ladies in Constantinople could have used needles, already in use in classical roman hairstyle in england as a recent study revealed (4).

Jewellery At the end of the 12th c., earrings are a typical east roman woman jewellery. Numerous exemples have been found in archeological findings and they are frequently shown in wall painting and mosaics (figures 2, 5). Eudocia’s earrings are of the half-moon style type, commonly found since the 10th c. She could have rather choose tridental style ones, also popular in the 12th c. Eudocia is displaying here a more unusual type of jewellery, temple pendants. Such jewellery is worn hanging on hairs or to a headdress. One of their characteristics is to be open atop, allowing the insertion of small pieces of tissue impregnated with oily perfume. The majority of the known exemple of temple pendants originates from Ukraine, where they are known as kolty, but several exemples from the byzantine sphere are known, in particular one exemple produced in Constantinople (figure 8).

[1] T. Dawson. Byzantine Women : Varieties of Experience Ad 800-1200. Ouvrage collectif Ashgate Publishing, Ltd., 2006.

[2] Ristovska N. Temple pendants in medieval Rus : how were they worn. Intelligible Beauty. Recent Research on Byzantine Jewellery (British Museum Research Publications 178) (2010) p203.

[3] Parure d’une princesse byzantine. Musée d’art et d’histoire de Genève (2010) p53.

[4] Stephens J. Ancient Roman hairdressing : on (hair)pins and needles Journal of Roman Archeology (2008) p111.

[5] Bosselmann-ruickbie A. Byzantinischer Schmuck des 9. bis fruhen 13. Jahrhunderts : Untersuchungen zum metallenen dekorativen Korperschmuck der mittelbyzantinischen Zeit anhand datierter Funde aus Griechenland und Bulgarien. Dr. Ludwig Reichert Verlag, Wiesbaden 2011 .

-- Bohémond --

Caution : the intention of this article is to give a rough overview of the luxury and complicated aspects of the headgear, hairdress and jewellery of a imperial court lady at the end of the 12th c. Several artifacts shown in our pictures are there to give an impression and should not be taken as true exemple of jewellery of the period. We are currently working with a goldsmith in order to get jewellery more similar to actual archeological findings. As soon as possible new pictures will be made.

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