Spotlight On: 1840s Mourning Wreath

July 4, 2010

1840 Memorial WreathHairwork has a large role to play in the creation of much memorial art. Other hairwork memorials such as this vary in style and concept, but are still related in their art. In this example, the piece stands at 42x36cm with five different kinds of hair inside. The hairwork is placed on a silk background and the frame is unique to the piece. Over the next few days, I’ll show some more examples on the blog so you can see how they changed and how unique a memorial was. Memorials such as this often contained inscriptions or dedications to a certain person. Flowers as well as the hair are often placed in the art as well.

Immortals, which would be hung from a vault or would stand on a grave were flowers styled with plaster over tin. Doves and clasped hands are were also created (most dating from the early 19th Century) and are highly sought after.

Frames and items associated the hairwork memorial are often as unique and personal as the pieces themselves.

3 Responses to “Spotlight On: 1840s Mourning Wreath”

  1. Shirley Says:


    I just discovered your blog and greatly appreciate the time you’re taking to describe the historical context of each item.

    In my blog (and soon-to-be website) The Modern Mourner, I’m hoping to promote contemporary interpretations of Victorian mourning rituals. It seems that in today’s rush to get past the grief, we’ve forsaken some beautiful and meaningful gestures. The items and descriptions you feature are helping to educate me on my quest.

    Kind regards,


    • Shirley, I find your approach to modern mourning to be absolutely wonderful and I truly commend you for keeping these antiquated concepts alive.

      The truth to it all is that each and every piece is made out of love and the idea of wearing or creating something to memorialise someone is an incredibly beautiful and immortal statement. If the methods for doing this are kept fresh, then the idea and art will never be lost and the benefits to society are exponential!

      If you ever need any information or for anything at all, please keep in touch, I’m more than happy to help.


  2. Aliss Says:

    I used to own a boxy, heart shaped mirror, about 12 inches long, about 3 inches in depth. It had been in my family for a long time (don’t know how long but I was the fourth generation to own it). The outside was gold leaf and the mirror was much admired, and greatly loved by me.

    We moved house and were in the process of trying furniture in rooms, moving boxes and all the uproar that comes with moving house. I came across my mirror and tried it in several positions, deciding it looked good in the hall. left it hanging on an old nail and in the coming and going of people/children/dogs/furniture etc it got knocked off. The glass broke and I was amazed to see a hairwork memorial behind it, I remember satiny looking material and dark hair weaves, as you can imagine I was amazed and excited, but in the muddle we were in I had to put it to one side and carry on with the removal. That evening after my husband had taken some rubbish to the skip, I finally found some time to look again at my ‘mirror’ and of course, you’ve guessed it, could not find it. I searched high and low but can only conclude that it got mixed up with the rubbish left in the house and went to the skip. The fact that it must have been a memorial for a family member made it even more sad, I just wished I had found the time to really look at it properly but I thought I had all the time in the world to look and admire it, how wrong I was.

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