Photographing dead children was a common practice during Late Victorian & Early Edwardian times.
Okay. I normally don’t reblog things, and this isn’t exactly “news” related, but this is seriously one of my biggest history-related pet peeves.
It appears that only one of these children is actually dead (the baby in the lower right photo). The other two probably just had their eyes retouched, most likely because they blinked.
Obsession with Gothic Victorianism seems to make collectors and antiques dealers claim every photo with a slightly “off” looking child is a momento mori.
To determine whether a post-mortem photograph is genuine, the most important features to look for are…
- The color of the child’s lips, nose, ears and fingertips. In a genuine memorial photograph they will appear black or dusky due to natural post-mortem discoloration.
- The eyes. They will appear sunken, something which is difficult to cover up with makeup. Sometimes the eyes were closed during the photograph and were painted on later. This often leads to confusion with photos that were retouched for other reasons; i.e. a squirmy child who blinked during the flash.
- Is the child being supported somehow? Dead people obviously can’t support their own body weight, most noticeably their heads. Normally in genuine post-mortems a person’s head will be either held or supported by someone (usually a parent or sibling in the case of children and infants) or laid on or against something like the baby in the last photo.
Thank you for enduring my rant.
A historian currently putting together a lecture on Victorian photography, who has handled more dead bodies than most people will see in a lifetime.
P.S. No judgement on the OP here. I did reverse image searches and all the pictures were originally from vaguely official looking websites/flickrs/etc. which stated them to be genuine post-mortem photographs.
Just trying to clear up a frustratingly common historical misconception. :)