Sunday, December 28, 2014

Death Becomes Her: Mourning Fashion at the Met Museum

Are you a big fan of Gothic fashion? Do those who don't follow the dark aesthetic always ask if you are going to a funeral? They would have never been considered en vogue during Victorian times. The Metropolitan Museum of Art's winter fashion exhibit examines the styles of this era.

Mourning fashion followed strict rules and etiquette in the Victorian era. There were detailed fashion publications noting the latest silhouettes for those who dressed to mourn that followed the most up to date style trends. The most luxurious fabrics were to be expected.

Social cues for public mourning were extensive, lasting past a year in some cases. However, aside from the cliche of the color black being slimming, it also indicated in society who might be "back on the market" for remarriage. The colors you wore, from black to grey to purple also indicated what stage of mourning you were in.

This exhibit also displayed beautiful mourning jewelry. There were ornate necklaces of jet and obsidian. Memento Mori jewelry was also made from the loved one's hair or had their names inscribed.

Death Becomes Her: Mourning Fashion Exhibit runs at the Metropolitan Museum of Art until February 1, 2015.

Wednesday, December 3, 2014

Beyond the Dark Veil - Victorian Post Mortem Photography

Beyond the Dark Veil – A beautiful, and beautifully macabre, collection of Victorian post-mortem photography
Beyond the Dark Veil: Post Mortem and Mourning Photography from the Thanatos Archiveby The Thanatos ArchiveLast Gasp2014, 200 pages, 7 x 9 x 0.8 inches$21 Buy a copy on Amazon
During the Victorian era, with the popular spread of photography, and before the emergence of a funeral industry, the practice of home post-mortem photography had its heyday. It was common to have your deceased loved ones photographed, not only while lying in state, but sitting in chairs, standing up (with the aid of special corpse stands), even posing with living members of the family. It was as though, given the advent of the photograph, people felt as though they could keep their loved ones alive longer by taking pictures of them. And those pictures weren’t hidden away, to be privately wept over in melancholy remembrance, but prominently displayed in the most public areas of the home.
Beyond the Dark Veil is a handsome new volume from Washington state’s Thanatos Archive, published by Last Gasp (perfect casting there!), exploring this fascinating, now seemingly macabre death practice. This is a gorgeously-produced hardbound book with an embossed, gold-foiled black leather cover and golden-edged pages. Photography comprises the bulk of the content here, but there are also essays from Jack Mord (owner of the Archive), author and death researcher Bess Lovejoy, artist Marion Peck, poet Joanna Roche, historian of photography Joe Smoke, and others.
The book contains 194 images, which include deathbed post-mortem photos, photos of dead children and families, adults, crime and tragedy post-mortems, and even photos of dead pets. The book also serves as a fascinating survey of late 19th century imaging technologies, with hand-colored photographs, albumen prints, ambrotypes, cabinet cards, carte de viste, daguerreotypes, gelatin silver prints, opaltypes, photo postcards, stereoviews, and tintypes, all from the extensive collection of The Thantos Archive.
Peppered throughout are also newspaper clippings, ads for funeral products, images of caskets, hearses, funeral trains, and other tools and ephemera of Victorian death and mourning. There is even a brief glossary of 19th century photography terms. – Gareth BranwynDecember 3, 2014

Victorian times, photography was trending. I don't know why there was such a fascination with photographing the dead in this era, but this is explored in a beautiful new book Beyond the Dark Veil: Post Mortem & Mourning Photography

The newly released publication compiles a beautifully macabre collection of images that range from post death bed portraits, exquisitely staged memento mori, newspaper notices, daguerreotypes,gelatin silver prints and more dating back to 1840. The images were curated from the Thanatos Archive which has been collecting this memorabilia since 2002.

Are you not familiar with this historical trend? Photos like this were featured as a key clue in the Nicole Kidman movie The Others. The Victorians took the culture of mourning very seriously, dictating their every day fashion.

Is it morbid? Is it beautiful? Is it sad or an artistic tribute to ones who were loved? 


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