Maiden’s Bloom: The Art of Emilia Olsen

Olsen’s faceless maidens, with their pink, sun-kissed flesh, confront their mortality and heartbreak with the age-old symbol of vanitas – a grinning, bleached skull. Much like Persephone dragging the lush flora down with her descent into Hades, Olsen’s subjects embrace the darkest part of their ego within a state of botanic euphoria.

199 Cemeteries To See Before You Die

Following the release of Loren Rhoads new book, 199 Cemeteries to see before you Die.

Tubercular Venus: When the Beauty Standard was Dying

If society’s beauty standard dictates a ‘proper’ woman should have pale skin and wear a crinoline that makes it near impossible for her walk through a doorway, chances are, that is a society that believes a woman’s place is in the home. So what does it say about a culture when the height of beauty is to be slowly dying of a horrific illness?

Best of 2016

The subject of women and death continued to make frequent headlines this year, as well as issues concerning gender, identity and death, reproductive rights and an examination of our complex and ever-changing relationship to our own mortality. Here’s a recap of what 2016 had to offer from our co-founder Sarah Chavez.

Protest, politics & power: the tales of martyrs Anne Askew & Margaret Pole

Nikki Shaill, Director of Art Macabre Death Drawing salons and Drawn at the Tower, discusses the lives and deaths of two female martyrs from English history. On Wednesday evening, an event will take place inviting guests to draw these figures on the site where they were both executed and buried at Tower of London’s ChapelContinue reading “Protest, politics & power: the tales of martyrs Anne Askew & Margaret Pole”

Poison Panic: Arsenic Deaths in 1840s Essex

Helen Barrell examines the lives of three apparently ordinary women: Sarah Chesham, Hannah Southgate, and Mary May. 1840s Essex became notorious as a place where women stalked the lanes looking for their next victim to poison with arsenic, though much of the reported horror remains unfounded.

The Punished Suicide

Ivan Cenzi brings a strange story of suicide to Death and the Maiden this week. One beginning with sorrow and ending in spectacle. It’s 1863 and on hearing of a young girl’s suicide, anatomist Lodovico Brunetti requests her body be brought to him for experiments. What evolves from his casting and preservation work is unexpected.Continue reading “The Punished Suicide”

Sweet Fanny Adams

On this day 149 years ago, eight year old Fanny Adams was brutally murdered by Frederick Baker, a 29 year old solicitor’s clerk. Her grave still stands in Alton Cemetery, adorned lovingly with teddies, tea lights and flowers. Perhaps her name is familiar to you. Maybe you have heard the phrase “Sweet Fanny Adams” or “Sweet FA”, you may even use it. So how is it then, that this murdered child’s name has come to mean ‘nothing’ at all?

Help Me Bring Them Back From The Dead

What started as googling, quickly became a visit to California and resulted in a rather sad discovery. In Hollywood, there are so many graves of long-forgotten or barely remembered stars that once shined brightly on the silver screen. This is not how these women should be remembered. Their stories should be told. Remembering them for who they were andContinue reading “Help Me Bring Them Back From The Dead”

Of Divine Beauty & Hidden Grief

Nicholas Johnson is the artist behind Divine Excess, an online shop that sells bespoke pieces inspired by Mexican folk art and iconography. Here we find out more about the influences that inspire these intricate creations. From the saintly to the cult of Santa Muerte, Nick also shares some examples of his work whereby femininity isContinue reading “Of Divine Beauty & Hidden Grief”

Silent Sisters: Caring for the dead in gendered religious space

Nuri McBride is a Metaheret, which means washing and ritually preparing the dead in the Jewish traditions, as well as assisting in funeral preparation and bereavement. As a member of  a Chevras you provide kosher body preparation, funeral services, bereavement support, and palliative care, free of charge as a community service. With women outnumbering men in ChevrasContinue reading “Silent Sisters: Caring for the dead in gendered religious space”

#BoneLifeWife

Regina Marie Cohn left a success career in fashion to work by her husband artist Ryan Matthew Cohn’s side. Embracing her inner shadow, Regina explains how she began on this intriguing journey and found true purpose and passion amongst the specimens and oddities of their New York home. With so many exciting projects underway weContinue reading “#BoneLifeWife”

The Little Book of Burial

Krista Amira Calvo takes us on a journey across the globe with The Little Book of Burial. A playful hands on experience that sheds light on different cultures and their burial practices. Exploring the evolution of burial and some rituals that are no longer practiced but still very iconic and recognisable to us. This delightful pop-up book captures the innocence and joy of childhood whilst educating and opening up discussions about death.

Sleeping Beauty

A beautiful work of fiction for you this week from Angie McLachlan. Capturing the essences of a myriad of deaths, feelings and experiences, plucked from her 25 years serving families & caring for the dead through the sacred art and science of Embalming. Making clear this is more than just a job, Angie delves into theContinue reading “Sleeping Beauty”

Modern Mourning

Laurel Witting creates bespoke pieces of jewelry that pay homage to mourning practices of the past. Each piece unique, she finds influence & sometimes materials in the forgotten corners & dusty boxes of yesterday. Handcrafting modern mourning jewelry using traditional beading patterns to both reflect Victorian design & commemorate the dead. Laurel hopes that her mourningContinue reading “Modern Mourning”

Keening & the Death Wail

S Elizabeth interviews musician Gemma Fleet of The Wharves on her project “Lost Voices” which explores vocal improvisation in folk culture. Volume 1. “Keening and the Death Wail” has roots in Fleet’s own childhood. She believes she encountered an Irish traveler funeral; an “unhindered display of grief” wherein the woman in mourning was not being hushed,Continue reading “Keening & the Death Wail”

Death Becomes Her: Marilyn Monroe’s Posthumous Career

Ruth Penfold-Mounce tells us how it can pay (literally) to be a celebrity in death. Companies may choose the immortalised over the high maintenance to be the face of their brand. Marilyn Monroe is a shining example of this. She has her own perfume line, appears on all kinds of products & has even appearedContinue reading “Death Becomes Her: Marilyn Monroe’s Posthumous Career”

The Crime Museum Uncovered

Yesterday, after six months this long awaited exhibition at the Museum of London came to an end. With plans for New Scotland Yard to close the future of the Metropolitan Police’s infamously known “Black Museum” is uncertain. This carefully curated exhibition allowed the public to experience a selection of the items found inside. Many stillContinue reading “The Crime Museum Uncovered”

The Triangle Shirtwaist Fire

Death & the Maiden’s own Sarah Chavez (Troop) shares the horrifying story of the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory fire in Manhattan, New York City on March 25, 1911. An entire nation grieved over the 148 deaths that occurred that day, so easily preventable. Their collective outrage changed U.S. labor laws and led to the adoption of fireContinue reading “The Triangle Shirtwaist Fire”

The Female in Mourning Jewels

Hayden Peters, founder and creative director of Art of Mourning gives us an illustrated tour of female mourning jewellery. Exploring the mourning industry of the 16th-19th centuries we learn about different trends in design and how this reflects cultural attitudes and social norms of the time. From memento mori to locks of hair and cutting diamondsContinue reading “The Female in Mourning Jewels”

Rest In Pieces

To celebrate the paperback release of Rest in Pieces: The Curious Fates of Famous Corpses, author Bess Lovejoy is giving away a signed copy of her book. Rest in Pieces catalogs stories from the age of antiquity to today, tracing the evolution of cultural attitudes toward death and connecting the lives of the famous deceasedContinue reading “Rest In Pieces”

Drawn at the Tower

When the wonderful people at Art Macabre invited Death & the Maiden’s own Lucy Talbot to experience the first Drawn at the Tower, a series of events at the Tower of London after dark, how could she say no? Particularly when it would be the She Wolf of France walking into the beautiful low litContinue reading “Drawn at the Tower”

Death and the Birth of Feminism 

Whether you believe the Fox sisters possessed supernatural powers or were masters of deception, one thing is for sure. What began as a rapping on the wall quickly became fame & fortune. Spiritualism was at its height & provided a platform for women to speak out. Death & the Maiden’s Sarah Chavez explains that women becameContinue reading “Death and the Birth of Feminism “

Widows and Virgins: The Curse of Being a Single Woman

Contrary to many death rituals I’ve read about previously, the widow bore the burden of “exaggerated observance of mourning customs” not out of respect for her deceased husband, but so that she did not become “infected” by the dead and his ghost, for it was the widow who was “especially liable to death infections.” One of these mourning customs,Continue reading “Widows and Virgins: The Curse of Being a Single Woman”

Life Of Pie

The colors are a deep burnt umber and it becomes increasingly brown as it spreads from the center to the tawny crispy crust that holds it all together. And when I close my eyes, I can hear my mom, beaming aloud about how proud she is that she made it, telling me the story aboutContinue reading “Life Of Pie”

Beauty Secrets of The Martyrs

Historian, Verity Holloway’s first novella Beauty Secrets of The Martyrs is about magic, makeup, crypts, and clownfish. But mostly, it’s about our obsession with keeping the dead around. Here Verity shares how this book began as a few notes and takes us back to her first encounter with the incorrupt body of Saint Spyridon in Corfu.Continue reading “Beauty Secrets of The Martyrs”

Monsters

“Be home when the street lights come on!” Was a common directive during many of our childhoods, as we anxiously ran out into the world to play. However, in my neighborhood and for many of us who lived out our childhoods on the East Side of Los Angeles that directive also came with a sinisterContinue reading “Monsters”

Is Taxidermy a “Girl Thing”?

I get called a lot of things by taxidermy enthusiasts, animal-rights activists, and the media. I’m apparently an instructor, an expert, a hipster, an animal hater, a sicko, a stuffer…but one of the most puzzling things I have been called recently is a “woman taxidermist” and I get asked the same question time and timeContinue reading “Is Taxidermy a “Girl Thing”?”

Katabira no Tsuji – The Crossroad of Corpses

When the Empress died at the age of 64—still beautiful—her last will and testament was opened, and shocked the entire royal family. Instead of a state funeral and proper internment, the Empress requested that her body be garbed in the simplest cloth, then flung onto the streets. When people saw her delicate flesh rot away,Continue reading “Katabira no Tsuji – The Crossroad of Corpses”

Midwives, Layers-Out, and Lady Pole

Patricia Lundy explores the relationship between women and death by reflecting on two books. Smoke Gets In Your Eyes: And Other Lessons from the Crematory, Caitlin Doughty’s memoir on her experience (past and current) in the death industry and Susanna Clarke’s Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell, with specific focus on Lady Pole. In this post Patricia entertains theContinue reading “Midwives, Layers-Out, and Lady Pole”

Recording the Diseased & the Deceased: A Brief Look at the work of a Medical Photographer

Anni Skilton chose to pursue a career photographing the medically curious, the diseased and the deceased. Here she shares her experiences in various hospital departments, up close and personal capturing the incredible. An inevitable part of Anni’s job involves working with those at end-of-life as well as taking photographs postmortem.

Female Professional Embalmer, 1900

Miss Katie Smith, daughter of the late Gran W. Smith, the only lady embalmer in the South, has made a long and successful study of the subject of embalming, and today she is recognized as one of the most proficient practicing that art. There has been a growing demand for her services recently, her reputationContinue reading “Female Professional Embalmer, 1900”

Proboscis Tongues and Demonic Queefing

In examining the reasons why pregnant women and young infants have traditionally been seen as particularly vulnerable to demonic influences, it may be necessary to look at popular views concerning soul belief and young infants.  In many cases, very young children are seen as occupying a liminal status  between the world of the living andContinue reading “Proboscis Tongues and Demonic Queefing”

Transformative Powers through Making

How exactly did Yuli Somme go from making colourful hand-made felt tea cosies, felted seamless jackets and hats, and the occasional wall hanging to soft coffins? In this beautiful account of how creative direction can change rather unexpectedly we learn that the physical act of creation can release emotion, that from sorrow something truly life affirming canContinue reading “Transformative Powers through Making”

Lost Souls

This week features one of Death & the Maiden’s favourite shops. Samantha Lyn owner of Funereal Ephemera collects postmortem photographs, memorial cards, funeral photographs and cemetery photographs. They’re forgotten, only to be revealed generations later, to modern eyes with a modern sense of death and mourning. A piece of history lost and found again. Samantha sees thoseContinue reading “Lost Souls”

Tears Become Ideas

In some places, the ability to sing or recite ritual laments became part of a feminine portfolio of skills, along with cooking, spinning, mending and cleaning. Here, author Sarah Murray shares an adaptation from her wonderful book Making an Exit: From the Magnificent to the Macabre, How We Dignify the Dead to give us insightContinue reading “Tears Become Ideas”

Sewing Shrouds: 19th-century Burial Clothing

Chris Woodyard has always been interested in what the well-dressed corpse is wearing: a netted beadwork shroud, as worn by an Egyptian mummy; the beautiful brocades found in the royal tombs at Las Huelgas; a plain wool shroud tied at the head and foot, as modeled by John Donne in his funerary monument; or the frilled-frontContinue reading “Sewing Shrouds: 19th-century Burial Clothing”

A Family Connection

Social Historian, Sarah Hayes is the Collections and Exhibitions Manager at Newman Brothers Coffin Works in Birmingham. Discovering she had an ancestor working in the funeral trade in Birmingham over 150 years ago, and then of her daughter living on Fleet Street, just ten doors down from what was to become Newman Brothers Coffin Works is almostContinue reading “A Family Connection”

The Rebozo: Fashion, Feminism and Death

Death & the Maiden’s own Sarah Chavez presents the rebozo. For centuries, broken-hearted mothers have wrapped their lifeless infants in them for burial and covered their faces with it to signify mourning. The use of the rebozo as a shroud was once so common in Mexico, many artisans created them solely for this purpose, whereas today,Continue reading “The Rebozo: Fashion, Feminism and Death”

Death, Sex, Religion and the Erotic Women

Dr Christina Welch explains that Europe has had a long history with Sex and Death, one intimately tied to religion. This post explores a genre of art produced during this time period that melds these themes. It examines ‘Death and the Maiden’ artworks by Germanic proto-and early-Reformist artists who highlighted the folly, futility and transience of earthly vanities, through the use of erotic death imagery that juxtaposed an eroticized woman, who stood as a symbol of life and fecundity, with a male/masculine representation of death.