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Morbid portraits show 19th century fascination with grief

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  • In the 1800s women were expected to dress in mourning clothes for a grieving period of two years in the UK
  • Following the death of Prince Albert in 1861, Queen Victoria wore black until she died four decades later
  • Mourning outfits became more elaborate for men after the prince's passing and grief was marked in pictures

By Sebastian Murphy-bates For Mailonline

Published: 08:19 EDT, 30 October 2017 | Updated: 10:15 EDT, 30 October 2017

Sombre snapshots from the nineteenth century reveal the 19th century trend for portraits taken in the throes of grief.

Pictures from the 1800s show how mourners across the world documented their sorrow by commissioning photographs to be taken in the aftermath of a bereavement.

Withdrawing from politics for decades after Prince Albert's death in 1861, Queen Victoria wore widow's weeds until she died, going far beyond the tradition for grieving women to dress in black for two years.

Her insistence at only wearing dark jewellery was typical of the Victorian tendency to make a pageant of grief, with the intricacies of mourning even requiring women to wear black underwear.

The prince's death also inspired new rules for men, who before 1850 simply donned mourning cloaks. After, they wore black gloves and hatbands with a full suit.

Queen Victoria is pictured here in 1879 with her children, whose laughter she would not tolerate after Prince Albert's death. She required them to dress in black like her in a period of grieving that lasted until she died in 1901, by which time she'd cemented the era's fascination with the aesthetics of mourning 

Queen Victoria is pictured here in 1879 with her children, whose laughter she would not tolerate after Prince Albert's death. She required them to dress in black like her in a period of grieving that lasted until she died in 1901, by which time she'd cemented the era's fascination with the aesthetics of mourning

Widow Emma Paige is pictured after the death of her railway station master husband circa 1874. Frederick William Paige died aged 55 and, after he was buried in Wooton, Norfolk, Emma encapsulated the Victorian fascination with grief by posing for this photograph next to his grave. Strict mourning customs for women curtailed social interactions, leading to isolation. Emma died in 1898Widow Emma Paige is pictured after the death of her railway station master husband circa 1874. Frederick William Paige died aged 55 and, after he was buried in Wooton, Norfolk, Emma encapsulated the Victorian fascination with grief by posing for this photograph next to his grave. Strict mourning customs for women curtailed social interactions, leading to isolation. Emma died in 1898

Widow Emma Paige is pictured after the death of her railway station master husband circa 1874. Frederick William Paige died aged 55 and, after he was buried in Wooton, Norfolk, Emma encapsulated the Victorian fascination with grief by posing for this photograph next to his grave. Strict mourning customs for women curtailed social interactions, leading to isolation. Emma died in 1898

Women were expected to wear black mourning clothes for two years and were unable to escape their anguish with professional pursuits. The era's fixation on grief inspired the opening of Jay's in 1941 in Regent Street, London, where people stocked up on funeral wearWomen were expected to wear black mourning clothes for two years and were unable to escape their anguish with professional pursuits. The era's fixation on grief inspired the opening of Jay's in 1941 in Regent Street, London, where people stocked up on funeral wear

Women were expected to wear black mourning clothes for two years and were unable to escape their anguish with professional pursuits. The era's fixation on grief inspired the opening of Jay's in 1941 in Regent Street, London, where people stocked up on funeral wear

Daguerreotype images were the first commercially successful photographs and were used by mourners to document their grieving in the wake of lost loved ones. The wearing of black clothing for up to two years by widows helped establish black as a fashionable colour in urban areasDaguerreotype images were the first commercially successful photographs and were used by mourners to document their grieving in the wake of lost loved ones. The wearing of black clothing for up to two years by widows helped establish black as a fashionable colour in urban areas

Daguerreotype images were the first commercially successful photographs and were used by mourners to document their grieving in the wake of lost loved ones. The wearing of black clothing for up to two years by widows helped establish black as a fashionable colour in urban areas

This mourning couple are pictured in 1865, by which time the requirements for men had grown more intricate. Before 1850 males settled for donning black cloaks while grieving. But after the death of Prince Albert in 1861, men started wearing hats with black bands and a full suit. Gloves, neglected in this case, also became commonThis mourning couple are pictured in 1865, by which time the requirements for men had grown more intricate. Before 1850 males settled for donning black cloaks while grieving. But after the death of Prince Albert in 1861, men started wearing hats with black bands and a full suit. Gloves, neglected in this case, also became common

This mourning couple are pictured in 1865, by which time the requirements for men had grown more intricate. Before 1850 males settled for donning black cloaks while grieving. But after the death of Prince Albert in 1861, men started wearing hats with black bands and a full suit. Gloves, neglected in this case, also became common

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Elaborate gowns made a pageant of grief in Victorian England. While ordinary women were expected to dress darkly for years, Queen Victoria insisted upon doing so for decades following the death of her husbandElaborate gowns made a pageant of grief in Victorian England. While ordinary women were expected to dress darkly for years, Queen Victoria insisted upon doing so for decades following the death of her husband

Elaborate gowns made a pageant of grief in Victorian England. While ordinary women were expected to dress darkly for years, Queen Victoria insisted upon doing so for decades following the death of her husband

England wasn't the only place to make a show of grieving, as this picture from Germany shows. The women, pictured circa 1860, appear in a double portrait with full veils England wasn't the only place to make a show of grieving, as this picture from Germany shows. The women, pictured circa 1860, appear in a double portrait with full veils 

England wasn't the only place to make a show of grieving, as this picture from Germany shows. The women, pictured circa 1860, appear in a double portrait with full veils

Mary Lincoln, widow of US president Abraham Lincoln, is shown in her mourning attire circa 1870 after her husband's assassination. She was holding his hand when he was shot in Washington DC while watching Our American Cousin at Ford's TheatreMary Lincoln, widow of US president Abraham Lincoln, is shown in her mourning attire circa 1870 after her husband's assassination. She was holding his hand when he was shot in Washington DC while watching Our American Cousin at Ford's Theatre

Mary Lincoln, widow of US president Abraham Lincoln, is shown in her mourning attire circa 1870 after her husband's assassination. She was holding his hand when he was shot in Washington DC while watching Our American Cousin at Ford's Theatre

Gloves, an elaborate gown and huge ribbon hanging from the neck show how intricate displays of grief were also taken up by mourners in Australia. This woman, who is also wearing a veil and short cloak, posed for the portrait holding an envelope circa 1890Gloves, an elaborate gown and huge ribbon hanging from the neck show how intricate displays of grief were also taken up by mourners in Australia. This woman, who is also wearing a veil and short cloak, posed for the portrait holding an envelope circa 1890

Gloves, an elaborate gown and huge ribbon hanging from the neck show how intricate displays of grief were also taken up by mourners in Australia. This woman, who is also wearing a veil and short cloak, posed for the portrait holding an envelope circa 1890

This picture, shot an unknown location circa 1875, is typical of the era's fascination with portraits shot while mourning. This pair are draped in heavy, convoluted outfits complete in what appears to be an affluent settingThis picture, shot an unknown location circa 1875, is typical of the era's fascination with portraits shot while mourning. This pair are draped in heavy, convoluted outfits complete in what appears to be an affluent setting

This picture, shot an unknown location circa 1875, is typical of the era's fascination with portraits shot while mourning. This pair are draped in heavy, convoluted outfits complete in what appears to be an affluent setting

This unidentified girl is holding a picture of her father, a cavalryman thought to have died in the American Civil War. The child's bereft expression mirrors what Queen Victoria expected of her own children following the death of Prince Albert in 1861. Consumed with grief, she would not tolerate laughter from them or anything perceived as disrespectful to his memoryThis unidentified girl is holding a picture of her father, a cavalryman thought to have died in the American Civil War. The child's bereft expression mirrors what Queen Victoria expected of her own children following the death of Prince Albert in 1861. Consumed with grief, she would not tolerate laughter from them or anything perceived as disrespectful to his memory

This unidentified girl is holding a picture of her father, a cavalryman thought to have died in the American Civil War. The child's bereft expression mirrors what Queen Victoria expected of her own children following the death of Prince Albert in 1861. Consumed with grief, she would not tolerate laughter from them or anything perceived as disrespectful to his memory

Adele Douglas, widow of Illinois senator Stephen Douglas, in mourning dress with a handkerchief, 1861. Douglas died of typhoid fever that year after losing the 1860 Presidential election to Abraham Lincoln just a year earlierAdele Douglas, widow of Illinois senator Stephen Douglas, in mourning dress with a handkerchief, 1861. Douglas died of typhoid fever that year after losing the 1860 Presidential election to Abraham Lincoln just a year earlier

Adele Douglas, widow of Illinois senator Stephen Douglas, in mourning dress with a handkerchief, 1861. Douglas died of typhoid fever that year after losing the 1860 Presidential election to Abraham Lincoln just a year earlier

This haunting image of a female mourner was taken at an unknown location circa 1880. It was a time of morbid fascination in the UK, where Jay's opened as a one-stop-shop for mourners 39 years before. It was considered bad luck by some to keep mourning clothes in the house after the two-year grieving period, which meant buying new clothes when loved ones died after that windowThis haunting image of a female mourner was taken at an unknown location circa 1880. It was a time of morbid fascination in the UK, where Jay's opened as a one-stop-shop for mourners 39 years before. It was considered bad luck by some to keep mourning clothes in the house after the two-year grieving period, which meant buying new clothes when loved ones died after that window

This haunting image of a female mourner was taken at an unknown location circa 1880. It was a time of morbid fascination in the UK, where Jay's opened as a one-stop-shop for mourners 39 years before. It was considered bad luck by some to keep mourning clothes in the house after the two-year grieving period, which meant buying new clothes when loved ones died after that window

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