Pale Flowers…Victorian Post-mortem Photography by October 4, 2011 13 comments

Imagine walking into someone’s living room, and seeing a large and beautifully staged portrait of them posing with their brother, sister, mother or father. Except the other person in the photo is a pale, waxy corpse, dressed up and slumped in a chair or leaning on the living for support. Maybe their lifeless form is draped across a decorated table, or their limbs are propped on an armchair, their sightless, glassy eyes staring out at you. Despite my fascination with dark imagery, I would probably think this person was a fucking psycho and run out of their house as fast as I could. But one hundred years ago in America and the UK, seeing portraits of dead relatives or children on people’s walls was totally normal, and in fact expected. While today, we prefer to remember our ancestors as they lived, the Victorians felt that capturing their dead flesh was a way to pay respect to their passing. I spent a while searching for some of the creepiest Victorian post-mortem photography on the net, and I found an overwhelming amount of dead babies, so I just had to stop looking after a while. After the jump, check out the array of corpse photos I have put together for you, with a minimum of dead babies, they are by far the creepiest!

  • Firedra Phoenixhawk

    If only there were more of these pictures here… :)

  • amber felts


  • Marie

    Brandi Vaughn, I happen to read your comment and soon came across another page that has the story about the family.

  • Kirsty

    Some of these photographs are so beautiful. They’re so haunting yet they’re “creepy” as you say, the fact it’s a picture of them dead rather than alive and well.

  • Brandi Vaughn

    Do you know any of the stories behind the photos? Third row up from the bottom, the last picture showing the entire family on the bed. . .I’ve searched for this pic after coming across it on another site. I would really like to know what happened to them…?

    Also I read somewhere that many times photos were taken because folks were so poor that they could only afford to take 3 photos: birth, wedding, and death.

    Anyway, I’d appreciate any feedback! Thanks!


  • Robert Cody

    Why do you collectors keep calling these creepy? I find that disrespectful. They are dead, not some imagined ghost in a bad b movie. I really wish you collectors would show more respect.

    • Meghan

      Robert, I am not trying to be disrespectful to the dead in any way. I find the photographs themselves creepy, and the idea of keeping a photo of the dead body of a loved one rather than a photo of their living body and soul. I think the dead are beyond my judgement and whether I find a photograph of their corpse creepy or not bears no weight for them.

  • Teresier

    On the last row with the female head, is her body missing or something

  • DylanXVX

    I have a small collection of post-mortem photographs. In some countries, people still practice it.. But it doesn’t have the same aesthetic as the ones from the Victorian era.

    • Meghan

      Where is it still practiced? I would love to check out some modern day post-mortem photography..

      • Stephan

        Poland and Russia still do that…..

        • Luxfer

          it is not true. 30 years of living, and have not seen any such pictures. delirium

      • Mary T

        When my maternal grandmother died in 1979, my father took pictures of her in the casket to show his aging parents who were unable to attend the services. When my mother died in 2002, my brother took pictures of the viewing to show her aging cousins who were unable to attend.