Coffin Technology

October 30, 2010

For those waiting for Symbolism Sunday or some sort of special spooky Halloween surprise (wherever did you get that idea?), here’s a lovely little look at coffin technology from the 18th century:

> Link Coffin technologies that protect you from being buried alive

Considered the “the first whiteface clown”, Grimaldi shuffled off the mortal coil on 31 May 1837 and now his memorial at Grimaldi Park in Islington in London has been reopened to ‘dance on his grave’:

“Making a monument to a man who would have scorned the idea of permanence, heroism or any of the other qualities normally associated with funerary memorials was an interesting challenge… I wanted to create something that is constantly changing, a joyous interlude from the silence of death.” – Henry Krokatsis

Two phosphor bronze tiled caskets which react to pressure by playing musical notes invite people to tap to their heart’s content as a memorial to the man.

Quite a remarkable memorial for a gent who certainly made his impact on showbiz!

Links > Creative Review and Wikipedia

A colourful piece and a statement on mortality, this enamelled box doesn’t have the fine quality of the mourning piece, but it quite unique in its symbolism and representation.

The two figures rowing across the river show the journey of life crossing over, from the home to unknown, or the garden, which represents the hereafter.

Battersea Box Sentimental openThe floral border is also a colourful touch, as it the yellow base and this would lean towards being constructed by a family in Bilston of the time. Purchased as a trinket, the sentimentality of this piece could have been delivered as a memorial item or given as a sentimental one, but evaluating the mentality of the purchaser is conjecture.

Courtesy: Barbara Robbins

A famous area for producing enamel the second half of the 18th century, Bilston in was renowned for its artists and craftsmen. The closing of the Battersea enamel factory in 1756 provided the basis for the rise of the Bilston enamel trade, which had existed before this time.

Mourning Bilston Enamel BoxManufacturers and materials had migrated to Bilston after 1756 and the standard of the boxes improved greatly. Boxes such as these were sold as trinkets, many made by small, family run businesses. The subject matter of these boxes were intended to be popular, so to produce and sell in numbers. This piece featuring the weeping widow at the grave with the willow above shows the level of quality produced.

The fine cross-hatching work against the white background provides a stark contrast for a memorial piece and reflects the sepia work being done at the time this piece was constructed. More than likely a patch box due to it having a mirror underneath, this shows the extent of the memorial industry and its effect on mainstream culture at the time.

19th century picture frame mourning angelsThis frame (with modern picture inserted) is an original memorial frame dated 1877. Take note of the urn and weeping angels, the detail is a reminder of memorial display in households at the time.

Household items, such as crockery, boxes and statues also contained memorial imagery, even ranging to scrimshaw. Pieces of this sort are too numerous to mention, as the size of the mourning industry was so large. As long as there were grieving people, there were items to sell. As time goes on, unusual items will be added to the site.

Hairwork Frame and Miniature Portrait 18th CenturyHairwork memorials can come in many different forms, sometimes as mourning pieces and sometimes as love tokens. This, dating from the latter half of the 18th century, is one of the most extraordinary pieces to survive to this day.

Hairwork Frame and Miniature Portrait 18th CenturyThe enormous amount of hairwork placed under the frame in a luscious weave with the miniature portrait in the middle makes it an incredibility portrait as much as it is a memorial.

Hairwork Frame and Miniature Portrait 18th CenturyThe young girl, whose hair is obviously as opulent as the hair in the frame is painted very delicately inside the ring of the joined snake (eternity – with black enamel on its body and blue enamel around the eyes). Such an odd and beautiful piece is a wonderful example of a personal token of affection.

Swiss 1855 19th Century Memorial ArtThis memorial dates from around the Swiss region c.1855 and combines hairwork with sepia to create a powerful memorial. The inscription is part of the tombstone and each part of the picture has been individually fashioned. Memorials such as these are common in Europe and America, often behind glass and with inscriptions.

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.

The only child of George IV and the potential queen of the United Kingdom, Princess Charlotte’s death (during childbirth) holds incredible significance for its time. Many items were commissioned upon her death, as with all royal memorials; this included household items to personal accessories and mementoes.

This particular memorial print is decorated with gilt coronet and black lacquer. The black truly brings out the stark nature of its mourning intent and is the fundamental motif that carries through subsequent pictorial memorials.

Courtesy: Simon Millard
Country: England
Year: c. November 1817
Dedication: Princess Charlotte Augusta of Wales

In my eyes, there’s never such thing as taking your passions too far, but this wonderful memorial for a man who was passionate about his BMW’s puts a spin on obsession and a new take on mourning art. Too bizarre not to post!

Art or Product Placement?

>> Via Daily Mail

Photography, Part 4

May 6, 2010

The precedent for post-mortem photography verges on the ancient, with funeral and post-mortem imagery linked to early cultural developed. For the modern era, there was a renewed interest in deathbed paintings in the 1620s and 30s, with mourning as a social signifier entering the modern psyche. Post-mortem photography, however, began as quickly as the technology was adapted. In the United States, families were also changing from the community aspect to the smaller, family unit. During the 18th century, these Puritan communities would feel the loss of a single person as a loss to the community, whereas this had been restricted to the immediate family in the 19th century. Due to this and the greater freedom of the daguerreotype process in the United States (due to lack of patent control), post-mortem photography was widely prolific, more so than in Europe.

Early photographs were crude and the subjects were often not prepared correctly, but in a short period of time, the process was refined to studios and travelling photographers. As the style developed, the subjects became positioned and personal items of the deceased (or symbols of love) were placed around the body. Children are often the primary focus of post-mortem photographs and a great effort was made to make the subject look alive. For the photographer, making the subject look ‘asleep’ was one of the easier methods to do this, though studios specialised in ways to prepare the body for photography. These may be retainers to hold the bodies in position, massage to the limbs, rouging of the cheeks, ‘affixing the mouth closed with a forked stick placed under the chin and against the breastbone, closing the eyes with coins, and preserving the features by placing ice under the body.’ Different concepts were used in this method, but the primary focus was the same; to hold on to the memory.

‘…parents evidently desired to represent their dead children in all kinds of attitudes in order to express their intense grief and their passionate desire to make their children survive in memory and in art, to exalt the children’s innocence, charm, and beauty.’ Phillipe Ariès

Further Reading:

> Photography in Jewellery Part 1
> Photography in Jewellery Part 2
> Photography in Jewellery Part 3
> Photography in Jewellery Part 4
> Photography in Jewellery Part 5
> Photography in Jewellery Part 6
> Photography in Jewellery Part 7

Not jewellery related, but as a student of archaeology, I couldn’t help pass up this link:

>> Read ‘Ancient doorway to afterlife discovered in Egypt’

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