The Museum of Helsinki
Lufthansa "Postiche Collection"
After many years of intense research and diligent attention to detail Julian Wolkenstein and Paul Sharp introduce you to the fascinating and stimulating world of postichery.
Combining rare original postiche with meticulous replicas created by technical adviser Tamara Maynes, we are given, for the first time, a wholly unique insight into this previously undiscovered sector of Gender Studies.
The project, part of the Slow Photography Movement, is beautifully documented in a Museum of Helsinki Publication "The Postiche Collection" - a Limited Edition catalogue designed by Hampus Jageland.
MORE THAN A BEARD
Few things can symbolise man’s virility and dominion more effectively than the beard. Through the course of history, males with facial hair have been ascribed various attributes such as wisdom and knowledge, sexual virility, masculinity, or high social status.
So potent a symbol is the beard that in various instances, ceremonial “dress” beards or postiches have been adorned (for the greater part) by leaders or politicians to garner greater influence.
To understand the profound power and influence wielded by the bearer of these fabricated essences of manhood, one must journey through time to trace the threads of the earliest examples.
The practice of adorning the false beard dates as far back as ancient Egypt. As part of his godly raiment, King Mentuhotep II wore a braided goat hair postiche on his chin, a tradition that continued through the reign of the Egyptian God Kings for over a millennium. 1
In ancient Greece, Periander the second tyrant of Corinth was said to have adorned a “fulsome chin piece of the finest silk and hessian” in court. The Corinthian Postiche eventually became a recognized symbol of state, passed on to successive leaders of council for nearly five generations (the practice dying out, it is believed, with the advent of the Heculanian invasion)2.
In 732 AD. Abdul Rahman Al Ghafiqi, leader of the Muslim armies in the Ma‘arakat Balâṭ ash-Shuhadâ (Battle of Court of the Martyrs) adorned a “Murkhet”3 (origin of the term merkin—false vaginal hair piece) a cloth beard embroidered with calligraphic symbols depicting Allah In His Divine Glory, an exact replica of which the collection has on loan from Mohamed Khider University of Biskra (Ma’arakatt Al Rahman Merkhet) the remains of the original purportedly kept in the 'Fist of God' a holy urn in the possession of Muḥammad Badie, General Guide (chairman) of the Muslim Brotherhood.
Another has been traced to medieval England at the turn of the 11th century. Reigning monarch King John adorned a bejeweled postiche trimmed in fur. As documented in John Bale’s 14th century manuscript “Kynge Johan”, it can be assumed that King John sported one to make up for his sexual inadequacies,
"This noble Kynge Johan, forewith his ill gotten manhoode did regaleth his chine. Wyth beyrde of ermine set afire wyth saphyre did the wymen of courte tremble and frolate.”4
In the intervening years notable instances of fabricated chin augmentation have been scattered and few, so it is with great pride that, for the first time, a number of these wonderful rare examples have been brought together for public display, as part of The 2011 Museum of Helsinki Lufthansa Postiche Collection.
In association with:
Lufthansa and the Museum of Helsinki.
Curated by Dr. Jullian Emile Wolkenstein PhD and Paul D. Sharp MFA BSC.
Chief Technical Supervisor, Tamara Maynes
With special thanks to the Belgorod Yakauleuski History Museum,
the Ettrick Kirk Community Trust,
the Mohamed Khider University of Biskra,
Irfan Mithaiwala and family,
Trottiscliffe Heritage Trust,
the McKenzie River District Ranger Authority.
And our partners:
The Arthur Drayton Memorial Foundation.
In a victory that will resound with all men who wear patchwork quilted beards the Belgorod Boroda, part of the Postiche Collection, was recognised in 2012 announcement of the Moran contemporary Photographic Prize as Highly Commended.