November - Art of Mourning

For some time I have been meaning to write a little about mourning portraits and add several mourning items which have been in a drawer for some time.

However, I have come recently across an excellent website devoted to the subject on Mourning Art which covers the subject far better than I can. It contains a lot of related material including some miniature portraits.

Thus visitors are recommended to visit: Mourning Jewellery (jewelery) resource, sentimental, memorial ...

I have also included the website as a permanent Gallery Link on my home page as Art of Mourning.

Complementing that website are several items from this collection which now appear here.

The first one is 40mm high and is engraved on the reverse "E Noble" and "R N" on the pedestal on the front.

Secondly, is another mourning piece, 40mm in diameter, again with a lady by a funerary urn.

The hair-back includes gold initials "A B". The angel at the top on the front is carrying a banner reading "L'amitie".

Thirdly, is a tiny mourning miniature, only 25mm high. It is of a girl with an open cage and a bird. The reverse is engraved "M H Aged 14", probably her age at her death.

From the old attachments at the side, it was probably originally a finger ring, but has been converted into a pendant.

It is most likely British, but may be American in origin, as there are similar examples on page 91 of the book "Love and Loss" by Robin Jaffee Frank and the frame has a somewhat similar scalloped interior edge to miniature portraits by John Ramage and William Verstille.

After some helpful comments from a kind visitor, and as the girl seems to have died aged 14, a tentative interpretation of the symboism may be possible.

In that, perhaps the bird and the open cage are intended to imply that death is releasing the girl's soul from her earthly constraints and troubles, perhaps even from a fatal illness, and thus allowing her soul to soar to reach and enjoy the endless freedom of heaven.

Fourthly, is a separated backing in an unrelated German brass frame, which originally would have come from the reverse of a miniature portrait.

It is 50mm high and shows a lady sitting by a funerary urn.

Fifthly, is a horn and silver snuff box, 60mm high, with a classical lady tending a fire on a pedestal.

The tablet to the right being inscribed "Honor et Amacitia" and "N H".

Painted by Johann Adamek (1776-1840) an Austrian artist, is a miniature portrait of an unknown man with a most unusual rear panel.

On a blue ground, and next to a pedestal with some red and black paint loss at the bottom, there is a figure in relief made of what appears to be solid gold.

The gold figure is either carved or cast, but I am not sure which. I have never seen another similar example.

Subsequently a kind visitor has suggested that the figure was cut from a thin gold sheet and repouseed (i.e. punched from the back to raise the front). They doubt it was cast; perhaps it could have been something stamped from a mold, but given the age of this, it was probably all done by hand.

Originating from Germany, is a round miniature portrait, probably coming from the top of a box, of a mourning scene by an unknown German artist.

The lady is leaning on a tombstone and an anchor, which suggests her lover has been lost at sea.

There is an inscription in German on the tombstone that is indistinct, but appears to read "Wie iel.lsh/werf ...../ivis .or./wv kring/Thrane m/fliessen.ob/16 dec 1815".

It has been suggested that the latter part may actually read "Wo keine Traenen fliessen", which translates as "where no tears are shed".

Another form of mourning miniature which is quite uncommon, is an actual post-mortem portrait of the deceased.

Here is a post-mortem miniature of a young child laying in her bed. It would have been painted immediately after the child died.

It is by a French artist, Jean Decourcelle (1791-1857) and is dated 1822. The reverse shows the artist's trade label.

Another format for mourning miniatures, was to show the deceased with clouds around their heads, i.e. as having ascended to heaven.

There are several of this nature in the collection and I have sorted out some examples.

Most of them are by unknown artists.

The group of four are by a French artist and imply the wife and three children have all died. That may have occurred during the cholera epidemic of the 19C when thousands died from the disease.

The girl in black is a slightly different format of mourning portrait and she may be mourning a parent. It is probably French.

She is standing in a churchyard, next to an urn on a pedestal. Although it is hard to see in the photo here, she is holding a dying flower and when looked at closely, petals can be seen falling from the flower towards the ground.

The baby in the oval frame is probably by John Carlin, an American artist.

The girl in the oval frame with a blue background is believed to be Lucy Armstrong of Portsmouth, NH.

The man is signed by the French artist "Pouell".

136, 212, 561, 721, 964, 1011, 1108, 1359.
407, 751, 637, 944, 995.


winegoddess55 said...

I absolutely love miniatures of any kind, but these are amazing. This is the first I've heard of miniature portraits, and they are beautiful! Thanks for this delightful blog site.

Mohi Uddin said...

Actually I love all of them because my knowledge has increased by reading their biography.