Saturday, 22 September 2007

Holy headgear

It has been brought to my attention by a friend of mine (he’s a defrocked priest, actually, but this is not relevant) that in choosing pictures to reproduce in Other Men's Flowers from my huge library of reference works on hats, I have curiously neglected to include any top ecclesiastical titfers. This is quite true: the hats I have illustrated in twenty or so earlier posts are a variety of royal, military, political, historical and modish hats, as well as just plain daft things that people put on their heads, but there are none from the world of organised religion apart from those worn by some Greek Orthodox priests in a cartoon. I did, though, quote descriptions here of the hats worn by guests at the late pope’s send-off, and jolly good some of them were too.

I now hasten to fill the lacuna with this nice picture of a jolly little bearded fellow sporting the kind of thing favoured by top bishops. If only earlier leaders of the church could have given the lesser ranks a lead in this way! God himself could never be portrayed in a hat, of course, it wouldn’t be proper, and although in earlier portraits Jesus was often given a rather unconvincing keffiyeh, he is nowadays usually pictured bareheaded, possibly in deference to American fundamentalists who might otherwise get the impression that the Son of God was of Middle Eastern origin.

For the lower echelons, hats of any kind rarely feature in paintings. One might have expected that several of the Apostles would have worn some kind of fisherman’s cap, but the bareheaded look appears to have been de rigueur for saints. Here, for example, is Rubens' idea of Shimon "Keipha" Ben-Yonah, better known as Saint Peter; no hat, though the beard gives him a bit of gravitas. Imagine the impression he would have made, and what he might have achieved, if he had worn the beard and a golden mitre!

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