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Hair

The image of Christ in the Byzantine artistic tradition is the result of consolidated visual
information. All images of Christ throughout history within this tradition are nearly the
same, with only minor differences. Christ's hair is also the subject of this invariability, being
a harmonious set of locks that ripple around the face.
The hair is divided into two parts, right and left, separated exactly along the line of the nasal
axis. Each side is divided into four parts ("hair locks"), and each hair lock one side has its
counterpart on the other side.
The hair is wavy and long, and it is thrown to the back. It covers the back of the neck and is
larger on the left side. Some of its length is seen on the left shoulder due to the 60/40
rotation of the head to the right. The image shows that Christ's hair is long, and it is a
testimony to Him being a Nazirite, a person dedicated to God (according to the vows
described in the Book of Numbers 6:1-12). The Nazirites refrained from cutting the hair and
allowed their hair to grow long.
The head of Christ is painted with a slight rotation (the "60/40 turn"). This results in
numerous modifications of symmetrical proportions of the face as well as his hair. If the
face were painted without this particular turn, all parts of the face and head would be the
same - the same two eyes, the same two eyebrows, the same hair configuration on the right
and on the left and so on.
Mechanical repetition of symmetrical shapes robs the image of vitality, but a harmonious
placement of similar shapes lends beauty, expressiveness, and richness to the image. That
is to say, there has to be certain symmetrical repetition which conveys logical construction
and a highly organized reality. At the same time, it cannot be a mechanical replication of
identical forms.
The larger hair locks on both sides are painted in symmetrical fashion. Between these hair
locks on each side, small recesses are formed on the outer boundary of the hair. The
distance between these indentation is nearly the same, and their placement on both sides
of the head is symmetrical as well; if you draw straight lines through them across the face,
you will see that they are all parallel to each other and are also parallel to the ocular axis.

There are four of these reference axes:


1.
2.
3.
4.

The ocular axis (C-c1); the line that passes through the four corners of the eyes;
The axis that passes through the top of the upper lip (B-b1);
The axis that passes through the lower point of the chin (-1);
The axis that passes through the upper third of the forehead (D-d1).

An iconographer must memorize these axes in order to paint the hair of Christ from
memory correctly, and also detect errors.
Each of the larger hair locks is in turn made of strands of hair Each strand is modeled with
light, and they are all generally of equal width within a hair lock; they are also separated by
narrow darker grooves. These strands of hair receive the first and second light in the middle
part only, as to create the effect of the form. The darker grooves are left in the color of hair
proplasmos; these are not modeled with light. As these grooves extend to the inner and
outer boundaries of the head, they are first painted with burnt sienna, and the ends are
darkened with burnt umber.
The hair and the face form two non-concentric circles; these two circles touch in the area of
the neck (Point A). From that point, these circles grow outwards exponentially.

The four segments of the hair follow these rules:


(Note: in iconography, when we say "left side," we mean the portrayed person's left side, not
ours. That is to say, the left side of Christ is on the right side of the image)
On the right side:
The segment A-B correlates with the curve of the beard;
The segment B-C moves parallel to the line of the earlobe;
The segment C-D braces the brow ridges;
The segment D-E-d1 is one large semicircle, a simple geometric form; it correlates with the
forehead.
On the left side:
The segment d1-c1 corresponds to the segment CD on the right side. Its direction, however
is opposite to the analogous arc on the right side:

Note that the change of direction necessitates in a significant decrease of the recess at the
point d1.
The segment c1-b1 is analogous to the segment CB.
In the segment b1-a1, we have two hair locks instead of one. This breaks monotony and
formal repetition.
Under the left ear (b1-f1), the extended lock of hair rolls in three small hair locks towards
the left shoulder and falls behind the back. The first two hair locks (b1-a1) correspond to
and balance with the segment A-B on the opposite side. The third, lower hair lock does not

have a visible corresponding counterpart on the right side; it is there as an expression of


continuity: Christ's hair falls to the back, where we cannot see it. The end of visible hair is
at point f1. It is worth noting that if we draw a line from the point f1, parallel to A-a1, we
find that at the point where it intersects the shoulder (G), the halo begins.
All four parallel lines that define the placement of the hair locks (A-a1, B-b1, C-c1, and Dd1) are perpendicular to the nasal axis and are equidistant from each other.
Let us again observe the right side. Starting in the point A and going up, the hair area
widens continuously towards B and C. At the point C, the distance between the recess in C
and the cheekbone boundary (J) is about half the length of the nose or less. It is worth
noting that the distance between C and the pupil of the smaller eye (H) is the full length of
the nose, and the boundary of the cheekbone is somewhere in the middle between the
pupil and the recess point C.

CONSTRUCTING THE OUTER BOUNDARY OF CHRIST'S HAIR


(see Figure B)
First, we need to draw one more auxiliary line (BC) across the face, which would touch the
tops of both eyebrows. Since the eyebrow on the larger side of the face is lifted, this new
line will be at a slight angle to the ocular axis.
Now we need to mark the following three points:
Point A on the right side of Christ's face at the distance of 1/2 of the nose from the
point B (B is being the boundary of the brow ridge);
Point D on the left side of Christ's face at the distance of the length of the nose from
the point C;
Point F on the nasal axis at the distance of the length of the nose from the point E.
We need to make sure we are not marking these points on the ocular axis but on the
auxiliary line BC that is drawn at the height of the eyebrows.
AB = 1/2 nose;
EF = 1 nose;
CD = 1 nose
IJ = AB = 1/2 nose
After this, draw the four parallel lines that define the shape of the hair locks (as in Figure A)
Knowing these measurements and the positions of the four parallel lines (Figure A - the
chin, the upper lip, the ocular axis, and the upper third of the face), an iconographer can
paint the entire outer of Christ's hair from memory without mistakes.
In Figure B, some additional reference points are given to verify the correct shape of the
head as well as to facilitate the proper planning of the drawing:
GH = 1 nose
KL = 2 noses (this is the width of the neck where it connects with the torso)
At the intersection of the line KL with the shoulder, we find the point at which to end
the visible part of the hair, the third hair lock of the three-part segment.
To summarize, nothing in the image is autonomous or random; every detail, every part is in
a mutual correlation and harmony with other parts.

INTERNAL STRUCTURE OF THE HAIR LOCKS (Figure C)


As we have seen, the hair of Christ consists of eight major segments (we should probably
say "eight+" as the eighth hair lock is a compound one, being made of smaller sections).
Each of these eight hair locks have their own internal subdivision. On the smaller side
(Savior's right side), we have four straightforward hair locks. On the larger side, the
structure if far more complex, but it also consists of four hair locks, just in different
configuration. The eighth hair lock corresponds with the first hair lock by the position only
but not by shape.
The following table refers to these eight hair locks and the number of strands in them. This
will be easy to remember, as the number of strands in each hair lock nearly corresponds to
the hair lock's designated number (for the exception of hair locks #7 and #8)
SMALLER SIDE
Hair lock #1 - one full strand, and a partial strand in the shadow next to the neck/beard;
Hair lock #2 - two full parallel strands, which curve around the ear;
Hair lock #3 - three strands progressively radiating from the narrow point A;
Hair lock #4 - four strands extending from the nasal axis (above A), and one peripheral band,
stretching circumferentially alongside the outer edge.

A peripheral band

Hair lock #4 - four strands


extending from the nasal axis
(above A), and the left
peripheral band, stretching
circumferentially alongside
the outer edge

Hair lock #3 - three full strands


progressively radiating from the
narrow point A

Hair lock #2 - two full strands,

Hair lock #1 - one full strand,


and a partial strand in the
shadow next to the neck/beard

SMALLER SIDE

LARGER SIDE
Hair lock #5 - five full strands of various shapes, one partial near the face, and one
peripheral band merging with the outer edge. Their distinctive features is that they are NOT
parallel. They all begin at the nasal axis (where parting of the hair is), and their shapes give
a representation of the hair lock moving towards the back of the head.
Hair lock #6 - six full strands and a portion of a peripheral band from Hair lock #5. Unlike
other hair locks, these six stands make two waves in parallel ripples. Note a slight
undulation in the upper part of the hair lock.
Hair lock #7 - four full strands and one wavy strand that begins from under the 6th hair lock
and traverses down to the 8th lock. These strands originate near the temple, at the inner
side of the sixths hair lock. Observe the process of their formation. Two of the stands near
the ear have their beginning near the eyebrow as they come from under the other stands.
Of these two, one falls in line with the others and disappears behind the hair lock #8, but
the one which is close to the face, is a stand-alone strand that cascades down to the
shoulder and becomes the outer stand of the hair lock 8. The remaining three strands of
the hair lock #7 have their beginning either in the area above the eyebrow, or at the parting
of the hair.
Hair lock #8 - this is a compound hair lock, made of three smaller locks; it has four strands,
and a loose wavy strand that begins near the temple under the 6th hair lock and ends up on
the outside of the 8th hair lock.
Two things should be emphasized. First, there is a single strand that begins on the inside of
the 6th lock, traverses the 7th lock, and is placed on the outside of the 8th lock. Its
configuration is very specific and should be memorized and practiced. Secondly, the
presence of two "bands" of hair, which are different from the usual strands; these are near
parallel and extend over the top of the hair. Let's look at the modified Figure C:

LARGER SIDE
a peripheral band
merging with the outer
edge
Hair lock #5 - five full
strands of various shapes

Hair lock #6 - six full


strands and a portion of
the peripheral band from
Hair lock #5

Hair lock #7 - four full


strands and one wavy
strand that begins from
under the 6th hair lock
and traverses down to the
8th lock

Hair lock #8 - a compound


hair lock, made of three
smaller locks; it has four
strands, and the wavy
strand that begins near
the temple under the 6th
hair lock and ends up on
the outside of the 8th hair
lock.

The right and left peripheral bands are not there by a whimsy; if they had not been there,
the transition from the hair's boundary to the bright circle of the halo would have been
abrupt and jarring. These two bands facilitate that transition, alleviate this conflict, and
create an intermediary shape between the smaller waves of the hair locks and one large
shape of the halo.
Since our goal is to paint the hair from memory, here is a mnemonic device to remember
this scheme.
If we go from THE RIGHT SIDE (Christ's right side, which is our left), counting upward:
1 - one strand;
2 - two strands;
3 - three strands;
4 - four strands and a peripheral band;
THE LEFT SIDE is far more complex:
5 - five strands and a peripheral band;
6 - six strands;
7 - four strands;
8 - four strands (plus the loose strand from the left temple)

Figure D: It is very important to remember that the lines of the outer boundary of the hair
are thicker and darker than in the middle. However, they are also thick and dark on the
inner boundary of the hair, near the face. These lines near the face emphasize the face and
make it more expressive.

As a recapitulation, here is how to make a correct drawing of the hair.


First, do the outline of the entire head, laying out the nasal axis, ocular axis, the face
dimensions, and the facial features. Once this is done, proceed to the hair features:
1. On the nasal axis, mark the outer boundary of the hair at the distance of the nose.
2. Draw a line tangential to top of the eyebrows, nearly perpendicular to the nasal axis. On
the left side of the Person, mark the point of the hair boundary at the distance of one nose;
on the right side of the Person, place a similar boundary mark, only this one is at 1/2 of the
nose's length. Pencil the general outline of the hair.
3. Break this general outline of the hair into eight segments by placing three axes across the
face:
a. An axis in the upper third of the forehead
b. The ocular axis
c. An axis that passes through the upper lip
It is important to remember that these three axes are parallel to each other and they are
perpendicular to the nasal axis. At the points where these three axes intersect with the
general outline of the hair, create the recesses. With a pencil, lightly mark out the strands
within each hair lock. Do this exercise often, so that the whole configuration is firmly
imprinted in your memory.