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Words new to me: фероньерка

September 27, 2013
Pushkin's wife wearing a ferronière

Pushkin’s wife wearing a ferronière

Фероньерка comes from the French word ferronière ‘ironmonger’s wife or daughter,’ apparently via the painting “La Belle Ferronière,” attributed to Leonardo da Vinci. The word means a sort of headband women, including the one in that painting, wore over their foreheads, with a jewel or pendant in the center. (Click the Wikipedia link above to find out how the word ferronière got into the name of the painting.) Evidently the ferronière was popular in the late 15th and early 16th centuries, and again briefly from the 1820s to the 1840s. The OED has an entry for ferronière, but their examples seem to treat it as a French word (like this from Thackeray).

There’s one in Elena Gan’s “The Ideal” (Идеал, 1837):

A murmur of hope ran through all those assembled: a broad path was made from the doors to the scarlet chairs, and a deep silence reigned in the hall, like the quiet on the sea before a storm; the musicians started to play; a joyous thrill shook the young maidens to their very foundation, and the governor walked grandly through the door, leading by the hand his majestic better half, who was adorned with silk lace, flowers, feathers, a light raspberry beret and a bronze ferronière, whose three hanging bits of glass swung like pendulums over her broad nose.

Ропот надежды пробежал по всему собранию; от дверей до пунсовых кресел составилась широкая дорога, и глубокое молчание воцарилось в зале, как на море тишь перед грозою; музыканты ударили в смычки; радостный трепет потряс молодых девиц до самого основания, и губернатор важно вошел в дверь, ведя под руку свою величественную половину, украшенную блондами, цветами, перьями, ярко-малиновым беретом и бронзовою фероньеркою, которой три висящие стеклышка качались как маятники над ее широким носом.

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