Ritratto di Annie Jones
Pen and ink, 6 x 6.25 inches, 1999
Annie Jones had a long career in the sideshow. Even as a little
girl she had quite a respectable beard and was billed
as The Infant Esau. During this time,
the famed Civil War photographer Matthew Brady took her portrait.
Victorian audiences seemed to have been particularly fascinated
with bearded women because their unusual masculine attribute
challenged traditional ideas of gender. Many visitors refused
to believe these were actually women (although it should be noted
that in some cases a 'bearded lady' was actually a man in drag).
Promoters such as Barnum occasionally went so far as to challenge
patrons in court, thereby gaining more publicity for their exhibits.
Annie was certainly a woman, and a rather fetching woman at that, if one could
look past the whiskers. Apart from her beard, she was the very ideal of Victorian
womanhood. As an emblem of feminine beauty, it seemed fitting to me that Annie should be depicted
as one of those archetypal beauties from a Pre-Raphaelite painting.
One of Annie's carte de visite photographs may be
All Images and Text © James G. Mundie 2003 - 2010