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Corinna Spencer

Moss Haired Girls

            For one Circassian, a sweet girl, were given,
            Warranted virgin. Beauty’s brightest colours
            Had decked her out in all the hues of heaven.
            Her sale sent home some disappointed bawlers,
            Who bade on till the hundreds reached the eleven,
            But when the offer went beyond, they knew
            ‘Twas for the Sultan and at once withdrew.
            Byron- Don Juan, canto IV, verse 114

The Circassian beauty has been a term used to describe an idealised version of a beautiful woman from concubine, to side show attraction, a bizarre example of a superior race and the sale of beauty products, slavery and tragedy, today she is found on postcards like photographs to add to a collection.

These women acquired the name of Moss Haired Girl while under the watch of PT Barnum, which is when the hair became a feature where it had not before. I am interested in the normal woman performing and working Underneath the illusion of an exotic back story. There are hundreds of these photographs to be found and each one tells of a kind of beauty but also of the very normal and everyday.

Painting: Shining star 2011, oil on paper, 12.5x18cm (from the series, Moss Haired Girls)

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