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Hair Design History Starts With Cleopatra

hair design

Hair design history must include Cleopatra as the patron saint

If I were to prepare a top 10 hair design movies of all time surely in the top three would be Elizabeth Taylor’s role as Cleopatra. Thanks to Diana Kleiner, Yale art history and classics professor has a book published recently that suggests that the Hollywood celebrity hair designers could learn a lot about public perception and hair designs by looking at Cleopatra images that have been uncovered Roman antiquities.

Cleopatra Worked Her Power Hair

Egyptian queen Cleopatra used her hair designs in calculated ways to enhance her power and fame, according to a book published recently by a Yale art history and classics professor.

Statues, coins and other existing depictions of the queen suggest Cleopatra (69-30 B.C.) wore at least three hair designs, according to Diana Kleiner. The first, a “traveling” hair design that mimicked the hair of a Macedonian Greek queen, involved sectioning the hair into curls, which were then often pulled away from the face and gathered into a bun at the back. Worn different hair designs in different circumstances, playing to her audience

The next was a coiffure resembling a melon, and the third was the regal Cleopatra in her royal Egyptian headdress, complete with a rearing cobra made of precious metal.

Cleopatra did not invent any of these hair designs, but she used them to her advantage, Kleiner indicated in her book “Cleopatra and Rome.”

“From the time of (Egyptian King) Ptolemy I, the Ptolemaic queens wore the ‘melon hair design’ with its segmented sections resembling a melon or gourd,” Kleiner told Discovery News. “When Cleopatra followed suit, she was more traditionalist than trendsetter. These same Ptolemaic queens were also depicted in art with the usual Egyptian wigged headdress that had its origins in Pharaonic times. Cleopatra did as well, so again she followed tradition and did not innovate when it came to hair design.”

“But,” Kleiner added, “Cleopatra appears to have worn different hair designs in different circumstances, playing to her audience, so to speak, in life and in art.”




  1. Thank you for your cultural comment. It sounds like you had a truly wonderful experience!

    Comment by Michelle Skye — April 28, 2012 @ 12:33 pm

  2. The staging of Antony and Cleopatra at the People’s Grand Theater in Shanghai was an interesting adaptation of Shakespeare’s play. The exalted language and large cast, along with the numerous changes of potentially elaborate sets, makes it one that is not staged very often. I was intrigued by the opportunity to see this playing of the story, especially to hear it in Chinese instead of the original (beautiful) English of the bard.

    Comment by wolfrun — April 23, 2012 @ 10:12 pm

  3. yea sephora is right ewwwww grosas

    Comment by Longoria — March 4, 2010 @ 3:10 pm

  4. This is UGlly

    Comment by sephora — March 4, 2010 @ 3:09 pm

  5. Please send me all straight hair pics

    Comment by Mehreen — May 28, 2009 @ 8:18 am

  6. i loved it

    Comment by samantha — October 13, 2008 @ 1:18 pm

  7. all i have to say is that in my mind i think she did create the hairstyles that people are wearing today

    Comment by Corinthian Stanley — October 13, 2008 @ 1:10 pm

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