The 19th century saw the rise of the posthumous portrait when, through photographs and paintings, people preserved the faces of departed loved ones.
Lucinda Hawksley’s book Bitten by Witch Fever chronicles the rise of poisonous pigments in the 19th century through the burgeoning British wallpaper trade.
In 1942, an Allied bombing in Lübeck, Germany, destroyed a famous 15th-century dance of death mural by artist Bernt Notke.
In 1860, William H. Mumler set up the first photography studio that claimed to capture the dead, and his success started a movement of spirit images.
The face of “L’Inconnue de la Seine” was a fashionable fixture of salons and studios, her enigmatic expression of a slight smile and closed eyes haunted by stories of her suicide.
For his most monumental painting, Théodore Géricault borrowed corpses from morgues and asylums to capture the ghastly horror of the 1816 Medusa shipwreck.
The public can now visit the Catacombs of the Sir John Soane’s Museum as he intended them to be experienced.
Despite embalming and sealed caskets being a relatively new tradition in American burial, brought about by the high mortality of the Civil War, we’ve quickly become uncomfortable with our mortal decay.
As a New York gravedigger once succinctly put it to me: “We all have dead.” No person is isolated from loss.
Chanel shoes, McDonald’s french fries, iPhones, cognac, lacy lingerie, and machine guns are just a few of the consumer goods you can purchase for the dead in China.
The unmarked grave of 19th-century artist Thomas Crawford will soon be commemorated with the installation of one of his own sculptures at Green-Wood Cemetery in Brooklyn.
The dead are often visually absent from our cemeteries, buried below the ground with tombstones representing the invisible remains.