In 1665 Count Vinciguerra of Collalto, a descendant of Gaspara Stampa’s reluctant paramour, brought the French periwig to Venice for the first time. In France a wig of this sort cost as much as three thousand francs, and the fashion did not readily catch on in in the schei-conscious Serenissima.
Eventually the government, being generally opposed to all things new, issued a decree on May 26, 1668, ‘absolutely prohibiting’ the periwig and entrusting the enforcement of the law to the Inquisitors of State, “but,” says Pompeo Molmenti, “with the usual inefficient result”.
At almost exactly the same time Charles II was introducing this heavy-duty hairpiece into England. Pepys records his own first purchase of one and his subsequent anxiety about hoisting it on after the plague of 1665: whose hair had it been? Fashion in due course won out over caution: here is a picture of the king himself, gloriously festooned.