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The Cover
May 5, 1999

Old Women at Arles

JAMA. 1999;281(17):1567. doi:10.1001/jama.281.17.1567

Famed for their beauty and characterized by their unique costume—black dress and shawl, white muslin stomacher, and tiny, black-ribboned lace cap perched high at the back of the head—the women of Arles were a favorite topic for many 19th-century writers and painters. Henry James was so charmed by the cap of one over-40, "robust" Arlesienne that he described it in minute detail: that "sweet and stately" Arlesian cap, sitting "at once aloft and on the back of the head," accommodating itself "indescribably well to the manner in which the tresses of the front are pushed behind the ears." Another American writer, Harriet Waters Preston, called the little caps "coquettish," remarking on the "luxuriant hair" of the Arlesiennes, old as well as young, "curling lightly about the temples." But it was their carriage that impressed her the most. Even a "heavy woman of sixty" walked "with the step of an empress."

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