Monday, 31 December 2012
The Victorian Way of Death
She looks so peaceful lying there, doesn't she?
Maybe she's having an afternoon nap, before getting ready for a Christmas ball. Any moment, her eyes will open and she will smile, stretch her arms and...
Er, no, actually, she won't. Why not? Because she's dead. Yes, I'm serious.
You see, they did things differently in Victorian times. The advent of the marvellous new invention of photography, meant that, even in death, you could have a lasting memento of your loved one. Not only that, you could even pose with them. The only drawback there could be that, while your beloved recently departed was in perfect focus, the long exposure time would likely result in some slight movement from the living subjects rendering them a little blurred, as in this macabre example.
In the case of a deceased baby, the photograph would be the only chance to capture the image of the child so eagerly anticipated and so quickly lost. Dead babies and small children were often posed along with favourite toys.
Should a mother die in childbirth, she was often pictured with her face shrouded, her child on her lap.
In the example below, a whole family has been laid together, while in the one below, a couple hold their deceased children:
As we can also see from this last example, the practice continued well into the Twentieth Century.
It seems all too macabre to us now but, bearing in mind the high cost of photography, coupled with the fact that few families would have owned cameras, it must have been seen as an important part of the grieving process for those who chose this type of Memento Mori.
A mere 100+ years on, how times - and customs - have changed!