Monday 11 January 2010

Freaks and Circassians

Circassian lady from

The excellent Victorian Peeper draws our attention to a British Library online exhbition on Freaks. To add my contribution, I've hurriedly digitised a piece from the Era on Chang and Eng, the original 'Siamese Twins' on their comeback appearance in 1869. There is, unsurprisingly, a lot on the web about them (see here, for instance). More interesting, perhaps, is the passing mention of a "Circassian Lady" Zobeide Luti.

"The Circassian, Zobeide Luti by name, was rescued at four years of age, from a slave dealer, and was educated by her preserver, an Austrian nobleman. Such is the account given of this lady, who is very handsome, and has a profusion of strong and vigorous brown hair, not in long tresses, but standing out in a mass from her head. The "Circassian" speaks five languages, and any one is at liberty to test her skills as a linguist. She is dressed in a robe of brown satin, and wears Turkish unmentionables of the same material. Zobeide Luti is dark in complexion, and her receipts from selling her portrait must be something considerable. "

I've never come across a Circassian Lady before and had assumed that Zobeide was a one-off 'freak' (or whatever a 'beautiful' freak is called) but apparenty such women - and their stories of titillating pasts involving kidnap and slavery - were a standard feature of sideshow life in the 19th century - and most had names beginning with an exotic Z (cf. Zazel and Zuleilah!). See Sideshow World for some lovely examples and more information.

1 comment:

  1. I recently discovered this woman is my great great grandmother and I’d love to know more about her if you had any other info from the historic pieces.

    My grandmother Violet was left at the orphanage until age 14, where she married and began her life. Ancestry test linked my family/cousins from my mom’s side to her lineage.