Tuesday, April 22, 2014

A 17th century recipe for green hair

Anne Hyde, Duchess of York by Sir Peter Lely, 1662
This is a very short recipe

To make your hair seem green
The distilled water of Capers will make your hair green./Eighteen books of the secrets of art and nature by Johann Jacob Wecker, 1661

The questions this recipe brings are much longer. Does a distillation of Capers really turn hair green? I have no idea. The Caper bush, Capparis spinosa, is a bush that can be found, for example, in Mediterranean countries. It provides edible flowers, leaves and berries. It needs a long growing period and a lot of sun, so it may have been solely an imported item in the 17th century, which would make this tint quite expensive. It is certainly green and a distilled liquid would very likely provide that colour, perhaps even strong enough to provide a green tint to hair. If so it would probably not last long and I guess the hair would have to be fair if it was to show.

Intriguing. And, I am so curious about this, who, in the 17th century, would want to dye their hair green? Actors? Temporarily for a masked ball? The fashionable jet set?