Pale Flowers…Victorian Post-mortem Photography

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!

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The Author

Meghan

Meghan

Meghan MacRae grew up in Vancouver, Canada, but spent many years living in the remote woods. Living in the shadow of grizzly bears, cougars and the other predators of the wilderness taught her about the dark side of nature, and taught her to accept her place in nature's order as their prey. She is co-founder of CVLT Nation webzine and clothing.

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14 Comments on "Pale Flowers…Victorian Post-mortem Photography"

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the 13th
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the 13th
1 year 5 months ago

In those years photogrpher’s services were quite expensive (as told by my great grandma). And that’s why picturing dead children was so popular, particularly because most babies (even the ones from rich families) wouldn’t get any photo before their first birthdays and/or baptism (some would even wait untill first Holy Communion), so if they passed away before any ‘important’ event, picturing them dead was the last chance ever to get any image of them.

Firedra Phoenixhawk
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Firedra Phoenixhawk
2 years 7 months ago

If only there were more of these pictures here… 🙂

amber felts
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amber felts
3 years 7 months ago

WOW!  

Marie
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Marie
4 years 2 months ago

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

http://morningpassages.com/2010/04/post-mortem-photography/

Kirsty
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Kirsty
4 years 2 months ago

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
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Brandi Vaughn
4 years 5 months ago

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!

Brandi

Robert Cody
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Robert Cody
4 years 6 months ago

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.

Teresier
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Teresier
4 years 9 months ago

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

DylanXVX
Guest
4 years 10 months ago

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.

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