Monday, June 30, 2014

Post-Mortem Portrait of Saint Bernard and Child from 1850

You may have noticed that three out of the last six posts have been about dogs and death. The blogmeister apologizes for this, but she is writing an article about ancient canine burials and has her head buried in research.
Mourning portraits, also called post-mortem portraits, were commonplace when the 1839 invention of the daguerreotype made portraiture inexpensive.  It provided a means for the middle class to memorialize recently deceased loved ones. In the 1800s when child mortality rates were high, post-mortem portraits were sometimes the only picture the family had of the child.  Deceased children were usually posed as if sleeping or with a favorite toy.  This photo from my collection is especially poignant because the sleeping boy is posed with his beloved dog, who I think is alive.  

Daguerreotype, collection of the Jane Brackman
About 1850-1860


  1. This is a sad yet fascinating say this is a 'sleeping' child, what of the dog, are they both 'sleeping'?

  2. I remember reading an article about a book whose subject was this type of photography. It seems morbid to us now, because most of the time we are so removed from death, but you can tell by the photographs, including this one, that the motivation for them was loving remembrance. Did I understand correctly that in this photo, it is the dog that is deceased, not the child?

    Thank you for your always fascinating posts, Beth

    1. I'm pretty sure the child is deceased and the dog is alive. I guess they could both be dead, but that would be too grim. I have a friend who has a collection of post-mortem dog photos - so very sweet.