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The art of mourning: Vintage wreaths & other memorial keepsakes made with the hair of the dead
02.21.2017
10:22 am

Topics:
Art
History
R.I.P.

Tags:
hair
mourning wreaths


A depiction of a French cemetery scene in a mourning dome made with human hair from 1881.

Memorial artifacts that were made or contained the hair of the recently deceased is a mourning tradition that dates as far back as the 1600s. As a matter of fact, a place in Independence, Missouri that claims to be the “only hair museum in the world” Leila’s Hair Museum is in possession of a Swedish mourning brooch by that dates to 1640. Works of art made from hair were actually a pretty common thread throughout the world and while not all were intended to symbolize a person’s passing, the examples featured in this post were.

During the Victorian era, owning mementos made with or containing hair was a way of life. Some families would create a hair wreath using hair from every member of their family which were used as a family tree of sorts and utilizing the hair as a way to communicate details about their lineage. Even churches were known to create hair wreaths created by donations from members of their congregations. Mourning wreaths would generally be constructed in a distinct half-moon style to convey that the deceased had begun the journey to the afterlife. Though they are in every sense of the word macabre, they are also intricate, intimate works of art.
 

A close look at a memorial hair dome created in 1886.
 

A mourning hair wreath made with human hair, wire, and wood. Approximately 1850-1900.

More mourning wreaths after the jump…

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