Monday, April 20, 2009

Bonjour Monsieur Courbet

Beard duels were surprisingly common in the mid-19th century, peaking in the 1868 throwdown between politicos Rutherford B. Hayes and Friedrich Engels that catapulted them both to stardom on the Transatlantic Bearding Circuit. Despite their popularity, the violent nature of these duels led to their depiction being censored by Christian family groups and stuffy Paris Salon judges until the 1880s, by which time the craze had waned. Courbet cleverly sidestepped the strict anti-beard statutes by portraying the initial challenge which led to the infamous Normandie Bearding of 1852 that left three Frenchmen dead and a Belgian fishwife four months pregnant.

(Gustave Courbet, Bonjour Monsieur Corbet, 1854)

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