Mourner at the Grave, Albumen Carte de Visite, Circa 1863 by lisby1 on Flickr.

"Copied by the London Photographic Compy., 1B Norfolk Terrace, Bayswater W., and 304 Regent Street W." This is a mass-produced sentimental image. The woman, dressed in widow’s mourning, laments at a real grave—however, it is too old a grave to be any of any freshly lost relative of her own. Thanks to modern technology the inscription can be read as “In affectionate remembrance of Frederick William Paige…who departed this life September 11, 1814, age 35.”

Mourner at the Grave, Albumen Carte de Visite, Circa 1863 by lisby1 on Flickr.

"Copied by the London Photographic Compy., 1B Norfolk Terrace, Bayswater W., and 304 Regent Street W."

This is a mass-produced sentimental image. The woman, dressed in widow’s mourning, laments at a real grave—however, it is too old a grave to be any of any freshly lost relative of her own. Thanks to modern technology the inscription can be read as “In affectionate remembrance of Frederick William Paige…who departed this life September 11, 1814, age 35.”

Art of Mourning: Symbolism Sunday, Wheat

Find out why wheat became a popular (and versatile) symbol in the art of mourning in this article on Art of Mourning:

Wheat has its symbolism baked deeply into the Bread of the Eucharist (Mark 14:22-24), a motif resonant of everlasting life through the belief in Jesus, this is when the motif is bundled with grapes. Within funeral art, we must also consider that wheat within the divine harvest would eventually be reaped (note the link back to the memento mori scythe symbol), denoting the life cut and the renewal (or resurrection) of the soul. […]

Another reason for its popularity is that the wheat sheaf was one of the simpler and more decorative weaves when tableworking hair. As such, it can be found in mourning wreaths, brooches, lockets, rings, woven with gold wire, feathered or simply glued into position. Because of this versatility, wheat became more of a prominent symbol, particularly in the 1820s-60s, in hairwork, rather than a secondary symbol (though it was used for this purpose as well).

Image via Art of Mourning.

Scthye and Wheat Sheaf Memorial, Albumen Carte de Visite, Circa 1880 by lisby1 on Flickr.

The Boot Box Tragedy

An Australian murder-mystery from Rachael Weaver’s article “The Morgue" in Meanjin:

On 17 December 1898 three boys reported having seen a wooden trunk bobbing in the Yarra River near the Church Street bridge. The Richmond police soon managed to retrieve it—still floating though wired to a heavy stone. As they raised it from the water, the side of the box broke away, revealing a human leg, so they prised it open on the spot and found the naked body of a young woman. […] There was nothing to identify the woman’s body and so it was put on display in the hope that she would be recognised. Those who hurried to view it were described as ‘sensation-hunters eager to describe the appearance of the body to their acquaintances’. Parties of clairvoyants joined the throngs, offering their services to help unravel the mystery.

By 22 December, due to warm weather accelerating the deterioration of the corpse, authorities undertook to bury the body after first removing the jaws, which were missing several teeth, with a view to a future identification. But this was not to be. Two days after Christmas it was announced instead that the whole head had been severed from the body, plunged into a glass cylinder of methylated spirits, and placed on exhibition. The head alone continued to draw unparalleled public interest, but no useful information, so on 5 January 1899 two police detectives carried it to the General Post Office inside a cedar box. There it was removed from the spirits by cords that had been fixed to it for the purpose and mounted on a wire mesh partition in the letter carrier’s room where it was shown to all the city’s postmen that evening.

Find out what happened.

Photograph by Andreas Larsen Dahl. De Forest, Wisconsin, ca. 1880. Source: Wisconsin Historical Society.

Funeral wreath of Caroline Keyser Preus, the wife of Lutheran minister Herman Amberg Preus.

Photograph by Andreas Larsen Dahl. De Forest, Wisconsin, ca. 1880. Source: Wisconsin Historical Society.

Funeral wreath of Caroline Keyser Preus, the wife of Lutheran minister Herman Amberg Preus.

So here’s something that’s bothered me since childhood. Why is Jacob Marley usually shown with cloth tied around his head (and under his jaw) in A Christmas Carol? I always figured it had to do with keeping the jaw closed, but still: Why and how, exactly?
The article “Screaming Mummies!” on Archaeology's website explains it all—specifically, why jaws gape after death.
Image: From Charles Dickens' A Christmas Carol, illustrated by John Leech, 1843. Via Wikipedia.

So here’s something that’s bothered me since childhood. Why is Jacob Marley usually shown with cloth tied around his head (and under his jaw) in A Christmas Carol? I always figured it had to do with keeping the jaw closed, but still: Why and how, exactly?

The article “Screaming Mummies!” on Archaeology's website explains it all—specifically, why jaws gape after death.

Image: From Charles DickensA Christmas Carol, illustrated by John Leech, 1843. Via Wikipedia.

John Everett Millais, The Vale Of Rest, 1858-59. Tate Museum, London. Via WikiPaintings.
From the Tate’s website:

Of all the pictures that Millais created, this was his favourite. […] The nun on the left is digging a grave, which is positioned in such as way that the viewer appears to be in it alongside her. The second nun’s rosary has a skull attached to it. In the background a coffin-shaped cloud—a harbinger of death, according to Scots legend—appears in the evening sky. […]
One October evening, he was so taken by the beauty of the sunset that he fetched a large canvas and set to work immediately. Following the Pre-Raphaelite aesthetic of truth to nature, he painted the bulk of the picture, including the figures, in the open air. The setting—excluding the tombstones, but including the terrace, shrubs and the wall in the background, with poplars and oak trees behind it—was Effie’s [Millais’ wife’s] family’s garden at Bowerswell, Perth. […] The grave and gravestones were painted some months later at Kinnoull old churchyard in Perth.

John Everett Millais, The Vale Of Rest, 1858-59. Tate Museum, London. Via WikiPaintings.

From the Tate’s website:

Of all the pictures that Millais created, this was his favourite. […] The nun on the left is digging a grave, which is positioned in such as way that the viewer appears to be in it alongside her. The second nun’s rosary has a skull attached to it. In the background a coffin-shaped cloud—a harbinger of death, according to Scots legend—appears in the evening sky. […]

One October evening, he was so taken by the beauty of the sunset that he fetched a large canvas and set to work immediately. Following the Pre-Raphaelite aesthetic of truth to nature, he painted the bulk of the picture, including the figures, in the open air. The setting—excluding the tombstones, but including the terrace, shrubs and the wall in the background, with poplars and oak trees behind it—was Effie’s [Millais’ wife’s] family’s garden at Bowerswell, Perth. […] The grave and gravestones were painted some months later at Kinnoull old churchyard in Perth.

Andreas Larsen Dahl, Funeral Party around Casket. Deerfield, Wisconsin, ca. 1874. Source: Wisconsin Historical Society.

A funeral party is assembled around a casket in front of an upright-and-wing frame house. Two older men on the left, one identified as Lars D. Reque, stand with bibles while several women wearing Norwegian-style patterned shawls are standing close to the casket. This is another house insured by the Hekla Fire Insurance Co., which sold to many Norwegian-American households in south central Wisconsin.

Andreas Larsen Dahl, Funeral Party around CasketDeerfield, Wisconsin, ca. 1874. Source: Wisconsin Historical Society.

A funeral party is assembled around a casket in front of an upright-and-wing frame house. Two older men on the left, one identified as Lars D. Reque, stand with bibles while several women wearing Norwegian-style patterned shawls are standing close to the casket. This is another house insured by the Hekla Fire Insurance Co., which sold to many Norwegian-American households in south central Wisconsin.

(Source: allyssapower, via thanatomanie)

From The Metropolitan Museum of Art (www.metmuseum.org):

 
Artist: Alphonse Le Blondel (French, Bréhal 1814–1875 Lille)
Descriptive Title: [Postmortem]
Date: ca. 1850
Medium: Daguerreotype
Dimensions: 8.9 x 11.9 cm (3 1/2 x 4 11/16 in.)
Credit Line: Gilman Collection, Purchase, The Horace W. Goldsmith Foundation Gift, through Joyce and Robert Menschel, 2005
Accession Number: 2005.100.31
Classification: Photographs

From The Metropolitan Museum of Art (www.metmuseum.org):

Artist: Alphonse Le Blondel (French, Bréhal 1814–1875 Lille)

Descriptive Title: [Postmortem]

Date: ca. 1850

Medium: Daguerreotype

Dimensions: 8.9 x 11.9 cm (3 1/2 x 4 11/16 in.)

Credit Line: Gilman Collection, Purchase, The Horace W. Goldsmith Foundation Gift, through Joyce and Robert Menschel, 2005

Accession Number: 2005.100.31

Classification: Photographs

Postmortem portrait of Bushranger Joe Governor, Singleton NSW, 1900 / photograph by Albert F. Saunders by State Library of New South Wales collection on Flickr.
Joe was one of the two Indigenous Australian Governor brothers. They committed a series of murders in New South Wales around the turn of the last century.

Postmortem portrait of Bushranger Joe Governor, Singleton NSW, 1900 / photograph by Albert F. Saunders by State Library of New South Wales collection on Flickr.

Joe was one of the two Indigenous Australian Governor brothers. They committed a series of murders in New South Wales around the turn of the last century.

Louis-Rémy Robert, “Jacques-Joseph Ebelman on his Deathbed,” 1852. Waxed paper negative. Source: Metropolitan Museum of Art.
From the museum’s description online:

This paper negative, from the collection of Robert’s descendants, shows Jacques-Joseph Ebelmen, director of the Sèvres porcelain factory, on his deathbed March 31, 1852. From its inception, photography was enlisted to record the faces of the deceased - it was, in effect, a new type of death mask. 

Louis-Rémy Robert, “Jacques-Joseph Ebelman on his Deathbed,” 1852. Waxed paper negative. Source: Metropolitan Museum of Art.

From the museum’s description online:

This paper negative, from the collection of Robert’s descendants, shows Jacques-Joseph Ebelmen, director of the Sèvres porcelain factory, on his deathbed March 31, 1852. From its inception, photography was enlisted to record the faces of the deceased - it was, in effect, a new type of death mask. 

Skeletons, mummies, bog bodies, exhumations. The dead, and what happens to them.

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