Post-Mortem on Pillow, Vertical

Post-Mortem on Pillow, Vertical

c. 1850

Ambrotype, tinted, sixth plate

Image: 7 x 8.3 cm (2 3/4 x 3 1/4 in.); Case: 8 x 9.3 cm (3 1/8 x 3 11/16 in.); Matted: 48.3 x 61 cm (19 x 24 in.)

Gift of Charles Isaacs and Carol Nigro 2003.294



Children have always been particularly cherished subjects for photography. Portraits were made to preserve the memory of their stages of growth and, in an age when long-distance travel was rare, to share with faraway relatives. And, for a sadder reason: in 1840 an estimated one-third of children died before age five. Photography offered grieving parents the opportunity to immortalize their children’s features. This tragic genre of photographs, later called “post-mortems,” often depicts the children in fine clothing, laying down with eyes shut, as if merely napping.

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