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Aspects of acceptance and denial in painted posthumous portraits and postmortem photographs of nineteenth-century children

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Aspects of acceptance and denial in painted posthumous portraits and postmortem photographs of nineteenth-century children

Beattie, Kathryn (2005) Aspects of acceptance and denial in painted posthumous portraits and postmortem photographs of nineteenth-century children. Masters thesis, Concordia University.

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Abstract

The Victorian romanticizing of death, childhood and the family helped people to cope with flux and uncertainty in an era of social upheaval. Faced with high infant mortality rates, Victorian parents used culture in diverse ways to mourn and remember their dead children. But to believe that with the reality of high infant and child mortality rates came total acknowledgment and resignation is an inaccurate assumption. In fact, many Victorian parents both accepted and denied the deaths of their children. The simultaneous acceptance and denial of death is personified in both the painted posthumous mourning portraits which represented the dead child as alive and often life-size, and the much smaller, blatant images of corpses found in the postmortem photographs. This thesis considers these two types of mourning images which flourished side by side for over sixty years, and addresses the question of why the same society would find two such seeming opposites---in format and subject---equally suitable and acceptable as forms through which to remember a deceased child. It is only when we realize that Victorian society actually dealt with death simultaneously in two extremely different ways---denial and romantic acceptance---that these ostensibly contradictory types of images begin to make sense.

Divisions:Concordia University > Faculty of Fine Arts > Art History
Item Type:Thesis (Masters)
Authors:Beattie, Kathryn
Pagination:xiii, 142 leaves : ill. (some col.) ; 29 cm.
Institution:Concordia University
Degree Name:M.A.
Program:Art History
Date:2005
Thesis Supervisor(s):Huneault, Kristina
ID Code:9280
Deposited By:Concordia University Libraries
Deposited On:18 Aug 2011 14:47
Last Modified:18 Aug 2011 14:48
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