Since exhumations are all the rage right now, I thought I’d share my favorite: Elizabeth Siddal, artist and model to the Pre-Raphaelites.
Siddal died of a laudanum overdose at the age of 32 in 1862 in London. Her husband, Dante Gabriel Rossetti, left a journal containing the only copies of many of his poems in her coffin, tucking it away in her famous red hair.
Image: Siddal as “Ophelia,” by John Everett Millais, 1852, via Wikipedia/Google Art Project.
None can narrate that strife in the pines,
A seal is on it — Sabaean lore!
Obscure as the wood, the entangled rhyme
But hints at the maze of war —
Vivid glimpses or livid through peopled gloom,
And fires which creep and char —
A riddle of death, of which the slain
Sole solvers are.
Photograph by Charles Van Schaick, undated. Black River Falls, Wisconsin. Source: Wisconsin Historical Society.
European American man layed out on a lounging sofa, dressed in a suit. Probably a corpse lying in state.
Wish I knew the backstory here.
Shanghai Corpse Backlog, December 1946. Photograph by John Florea for LIFE. Source: LIFE Photo Archive, hosted by Google.
Image: A post-medieval skull with a coin in each eye orbit, excavated from Bethnal Green, London. Copyright AOC Archaeology.
I focus on human, not animal, death on this site, but this was too human not to post.
Cat burial scene, 1925. Weir, Québec. Source: Library and Archives Canada.
From the Brothers Grimm, translated by Jack Zipes:
Once upon a time there was a stubborn child who never did what his mother told him to do. The dear Lord, therefore, did not look kindly upon him, and let him become sick. No doctor could cure him and in a short time he lay on his deathbed. After he was lowered into his grave and covered over with earth, one of his little arms suddenly emerged and reached up into the air. They pushed it back down and covered the earth with fresh earth, but that did not help. The little arm kept popping out. So the child’s mother had to go to the grave herself and smack the little arm with a switch. After she had done that, the arm withdrew, and then, for the first time, the child had peace beneath the earth.
I see a similarity in the way people approach art and death: they know each exists but may feel intimidated to try and understand them. It does not have to be this way.
This is George Mallory. Alive, in 1912.
Usually when I do my “This is So and So” posts, I show you a picture of them dead. That’s not the case here (though Dead George is a sight to behold): I like Alive George much, much better.
Mallory disappeared in 1924, on his third expedition to Mount Everest, along with his climbing partner, Andrew “Sandy” Irvine. It wasn’t until 75 years later, however, that Mallory’s body was discovered. On May 1, 1999, mountaineer Conrad Anker found Mallory’s frozen (and pretty much perfectly preserved) body on Everest. Here’s a video about it. It’s re-enact-y and overly dramatic, but it gives you an idea of how he was found.
Within hours of beginning the search on 1 May, a frozen body was found by Conrad Anker at 26,760 feet (8,160 m) on the north face of the mountain. As the body was below where Irvine’s axe was found in 1933, the team expected the body to be Irvine’s, and were hoping to recover the camera that he had reportedly carried with him. They were surprised to find that name tags on the body’s clothing bore the name of “G. Mallory.” The body was remarkably well preserved, due to the mountain’s climate. The team could not locate the camera. Experts from Kodak have said that if a camera is ever found, there is some chance that its film could be developed to produce printable images, if extraordinary measures are taken.
Anker’s team held an Anglican service for Mallory and covered his body with a cairn.
Image: George Mallory photographed at 38 Brunswick Square, London, age 25 or 26. Via Front Free Endpaper, whose post on Mallory is super, though NSFW (if you consider a very attractive man’s full back-al nudity NSFW).
This reminds me of that amazing child-funeral scene in Barry Lyndon, with plumed sheep pulling the hearse.
From Smithsonian Libraries: Illustrated Catalogue of Undertakers’ Hardware and Trimmings with separate price list. James M. Shanahan, New York City, 1869.
Via this board by Trini Wenninger on Pinterest.
Lovely: A visit to Yosemite Cemetery by rare book librarian Megan Curran, over on The Order of the Good Death.
By far the most beautiful grave in Yosemite Cemetery belongs to another teenager who succumbed to a fall. Effie Maud Crippen was aged “14 years 7 mos 22 days” according to her tombstone, when “she faltered by the wayside and the angels took her home.”
I clumsily fumbled for the key to the back entrance of the funeral home. Blindly searching for the light switch inside, I became aware of a low whisper. Upon flipping the switch, I realized the noise was coming from the occupied stretcher. Frightened, yet intrigued, I unzipped the bag on the stretcher and found a tape recorder playing a chant. Relief swept over me; everything was as it should be.
Skeletons, mummies, bog bodies, exhumations. The dead, and what happens to them.
Meet This Dead Person
Feats of Preservation
Skulls and Skeletons
Ossuaries and Bone Architecture
Incorruptibles and Saintly Relics
When Famous People Die
When Dead People Turn to Soap
Skeletons in Clothes
Dead People Sitting, Standing, or
Made to Look Alive
Death in Art
Accidents and Disasters
Morgues, Funeral Homes, and the
Business of Death
Mourning Customs and Imagery
Handling, Disposing of, and Storing
Posthumous Travels and
Cemeteries and Graveyard Scenes
Personal Details and Opinions
Just Plain Weird or Uncategorizable