I’m giving you one of those warnings like you see on television from time to time. This blog post may contain information that you find disturbing. At the very first sign of a queasy stomach, turn away and click to another website. This blog deals with a time in history when people observed different customs regarding death—customs most of us today find somewhat bizarre. In earlier times the practices were considered completely normal. And just so you don’t worry about me spending too much time seeking out customs on death, I can’t take credit for the information. Writer-friend Nancy Moser blogged on this topic a few days ago, and I was fascinated by some of the information, so I asked if I could “borrow” from her. She graciously agreed, andI’ve plagiarized a great deal of this from Nancy’s blog. So here we go:
I’m going to share one of the most bizarre things I’ve ever encountered in my research: family portraits that include a dead relative. At first this didn’t surprise me. In their sorrow, the families surely wanted an image of the lost loved one—case in point this poignant photo of a grieving couple and their dead child from the mid-1800’s.
But what did disturb me was finding out that often the photos were taken as if the dead were still alive. They would paint eyes on the eyelids, and even add pink to their cheeks on the print as in the photo of the little boy in the rocking chair.
Even more disturbing was the custom of propping the deceased up beside their living relatives. There was even a special stand created for this purpose.
The girl in the photo at left is deceased. Eyes have been painted on, but you can see the odd placement of the hands, and you can see the stand behind her feet. While I understand that having images of their relatives might have given the families comfort, propping them up seems to reveal a type of desperation. Still, grief confronts everyone in a different manner, and we have no way to know the sad stories behind the often untimely deaths of these loved ones.
If you have a desire to explore a little further at your own discretion, there is a website that offers even more of these pictures at, Victorian Post Mortem Photos.
For those of you who continued reading, I hope you found the information a fascinating piece of history.
May you find joy as you find peace and joy in all circumstances. ~Judy