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Victorian photographs of dead people

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  • Victorian photographs of dead people

    http://www.bbc.com/news/uk-england-36389581

    "Taken from Life: Victorian Death Photographs"

    Very interesting article on an aspect of life now long lost.
    Pat D. https://forum.casebook.org/core/imag...rt/reading.gif
    ---------------
    Von Konigswald: Jack the Ripper plays shuffleboard. -- Happy Birthday, Wanda June by Kurt Vonnegut, c.1970.
    ---------------

  • #2
    Originally posted by Pcdunn View Post
    http://www.bbc.com/news/uk-england-36389581

    "Taken from Life: Victorian Death Photographs"

    Very interesting article on an aspect of life now long lost.
    It was for a period very common.
    G U T

    There are two ways to be fooled, one is to believe what isn't true, the other is to refuse to believe that which is true.

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    • #3
      I once knew someone who collected these momento mori photos as a hobby. Taking such photographs seems to have been more of an American habit than a British one, perhaps because relatives in the US lived such vast distances apart. Though Australia doesn't seem to have caught on to the fashion. They are interesting, and some of the ones taken of children look as if the child is just asleep.

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      • #4
        My late mother-in-law, Dublin born and bred, told us that when her grandfather died the family bought him a new suit, had him shaved and his hair cut, and also made up. At his wake he was sat at the head of the table......thankfully no photo has survived! This I think would have been during the 1920's.

        The Victorians were obsessed with death and dying, and 'correct' periods of mourning for various dead relatives were a social necessity. Queen Victoria as is well known remained in mourning for Albert for the rest of her life. A huge number of morbid and maudlin 'parlour' songs were composed about death and the passing of loved ones.

        Graham
        We are suffering from a plethora of surmise, conjecture and hypothesis. - Sherlock Holmes, The Adventure Of Silver Blaze

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        • #5
          Originally posted by Graham View Post
          My late mother-in-law, Dublin born and bred, told us that when her grandfather died the family bought him a new suit, had him shaved and his hair cut, and also made up. At his wake he was sat at the head of the table......thankfully no photo has survived! This I think would have been during the 1920's.

          The Victorians were obsessed with death and dying, and 'correct' periods of mourning for various dead relatives were a social necessity. Queen Victoria as is well known remained in mourning for Albert for the rest of her life. A huge number of morbid and maudlin 'parlour' songs were composed about death and the passing of loved ones.

          Graham
          Hi Graham,

          Songs like "She was Dead in the Coachcar Ahead", an actual tune from the turn of the century that is mentioned in Eugene O'Neill's "A Moon For the Misbegotten". I heard the words once - they are maudlin! (the widowed husband is singing about his wife, now deceased, whose body is crated in coffin and carrying crate, in the baggage car of the train he is on which is taking him back to the town where she is to be buried - I told you it was maudlin!).

          Aside from the photos from the morgue of the Ripper victims (and the Mary Kelly photographs taken in the death room) and other morgue photos of dead victims (Troppman's victims' the Kinck children, and the dead Communards of 1871) the only photos of the dead with recognizeable names I have seen were of royalty (Kaiser Wilhelm I and Kaiser Friedrich III of Germany; Jules Verne). As far as they look they are usually tastefully done when of celebrities of of people who died natural deaths. I did notice that the one of Wilhelm I I saw showed his skin started to shrink a little around the head (curious mistake to let pass, given his importance to the German Empire). There is also the only surviving legitimate picture of Lincoln in his coffin (taken surreptitiously in New York City's City Hall, against the orders of War Secretary Stanton - who confiscated the plate and picture, destroying the plate but saving the picture - which was found in the 1950s I believe).

          Jeff

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          • #6
            I've always been a big fan of the Savoy Operas, but have never yet managed to sit through a recording of Sir Arthur Sullivan's In Memoriam, written as a tribute to his late father. It has every known Victorian trick of sombre banality, which of course the Victorians lapped up.

            Sullivan also wrote The Lost Chord as he sat at his dying brother's bedside, and although less mournful than In Memoriam it's turgid enough by modern standards. The last verse goes:

            It may be that death's bright angel
            Will speak in that chord again,
            It may be that only in Heav'n
            I shall hear that grand Amen.

            If they'd had Kleenex in Victorian times box after box would have been used up....

            Graham
            We are suffering from a plethora of surmise, conjecture and hypothesis. - Sherlock Holmes, The Adventure Of Silver Blaze

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            • #7
              Originally posted by Graham View Post
              I've always been a big fan of the Savoy Operas, but have never yet managed to sit through a recording of Sir Arthur Sullivan's In Memoriam, written as a tribute to his late father. It has every known Victorian trick of sombre banality, which of course the Victorians lapped up.

              Sullivan also wrote The Lost Chord as he sat at his dying brother's bedside, and although less mournful than In Memoriam it's turgid enough by modern standards. The last verse goes:

              It may be that death's bright angel
              Will speak in that chord again,
              It may be that only in Heav'n
              I shall hear that grand Amen.

              If they'd had Kleenex in Victorian times box after box would have been used up....

              Graham
              In Memoriam is rather stiff in a stately manner (particularly it's main theme or motif), but is a period piece. That's why I feel it is not popular as funeral music in the U.S. I have never heard it played at any state funerals here.

              The Lost Chord (based on a poem by Adelaide Proctor) was also composed in honor of a family memeber. Sullivan's brother Frederick (a promising actor who had been in the original cast of "Trial By Jury") had died, and Sullivan composed the piece as a result.

              As for the concept of death among the Victorians, just remember this was the age when thousands weeped at the deaths of Little Nell and Paul Dombey in Dickens' novels, and when the temporary death of Sherlock Holmes caused constenation for the reading public, and discomfort for Conan Doyle who got notes condemning him as a murderer.

              Jeff
              Last edited by Mayerling; 06-06-2016, 08:19 AM.

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              • #8
                GBS, remarking on how Christians believed that death had been conquered and they would be reborn, protested that this wasn't conquering death but refusing to die on any terms whatever.

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                • #9
                  I'm not sure about Europe but, in America, photography by any method didn't become popular until 1842. This meant that many people had never been photographed at all by the time they died and then it was the last chance to capture them. Of course, until the invention of the hand-held Kodak Brownie Camera in 1905 [I believe] there were no casual photos and everyone had to go to a studio to have a photo taken or have the photographer bring his equipment to the house. Therefore little children had never had the chance to be photographed prior to death, often quite unexpected. Then they were, in order to give the grieving parents something to look at. This doesn't appear to me to have been at all creepy--not like those 19th Century photos of children with a "ghost mother" in them. In order for the children to stay still long enough to be photographed, the mother sat with them covered by a large table cloth or something on that order. Why the mother couldn't be shown as herself is beyond me. Yes, the people of the 19th Century, as in all other centuries that came before, were surrounded by death and grief. Medicine remained largely primitive and life hung by a slender thread. Certainly, people died of old age, but there were as many young people and children on the mortality schedules--unlike now, thankfully.

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                  • #10
                    I ve seen quite a lot of these photos.The British were quite keen on them. Some undertakers had studios attached. There was a chair brace that enabled the dead person to sit up. The freakiest ones are dead and live siblings sitting together or adults in naturalistic positions. Dead babies usually have flowers round them. It made sense to have a momento mori.
                    The Victorians were much closer to death than us and accepted it. It was commonplace. Children dying, mothers dying in childbirth. Everyone dying of routine illnesses due to lack of antibiotics and bad hygiene.

                    The average age of death in Highgate Cemetery was 35 and they were among some of the wealthest in the land.

                    Miss Marple

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                    • #11
                      I found these photos very depressing to look at.
                      This is simply my opinion

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                      • #12
                        Bride adds dead brother to wedding photos

                        I was reminded of this thread when I read this story on the BBC website a few days ago: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-england-wiltshire-37119884

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                        • #13
                          I'm not sure what to think about it.

                          In a way it's a good idea....but I think if she was going to put her brother in the wedding pictures then she should have put him properly there - as a clear image and not just a ghostly shadow.
                          This is simply my opinion

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                          • #14
                            Weird as it is....this may be weirder.

                            Victorian headless photos.









                            Link to page.
                            http://www.cvltnation.com/an-executi...ess-portraits/

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                            • #15
                              Very interesting link! Photoshop, circa 1880s!
                              Pat D. https://forum.casebook.org/core/imag...rt/reading.gif
                              ---------------
                              Von Konigswald: Jack the Ripper plays shuffleboard. -- Happy Birthday, Wanda June by Kurt Vonnegut, c.1970.
                              ---------------

                              Comment

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