Thursday, November 2, 2017

A Husband's Remembrance on All Souls' Day

Chronica Domus
This sorrowful scene of mourning from my personal collection is constructed 
entirely of human hair, circa 1830 - 1840
Photo: Chronica Domus


Today, November 2, is All Souls' Day.  It is a day observed by many around the world who take time to reflect upon their dearly departed family members and friends.  Here at Chronica Domus it has become an annual tradition to share a piece of mourning art from my collection on this dedicated day of remembrance.

In this post, I have selected an unusually large piece to show you.  Not only is its size noteworthy, standing five inches high and four inches wide, sans frame, but the mourning scene itself is unusual in that it includes the mourner.  And, like many of the other pieces in my collection that I've written about (here, here, and here,) the entire scene is made of human hair.  I imagine the inclusion of the mourner, and the overall size - similar artworks are no bigger than two to three inches in diameter - reflect upon the wealth and social standing of whoever had it commissioned.  These were not inexpensive keepsakes which might explain their scarcity.

Chronica Domus
A detailed view of the skillfully executed and poignant mourning scene
(not the easiest item to photograph as it resides behind glass)
Photo: Chronica Domus

The forlorn mourner is seen leaning against a gravestone.  In his left hand is a handkerchief which he no doubt uses to dab away tears of sorrow.  It must be a cold day because he is dressed not only in a jacket but in an overcoat as well.    

From what I can determine reading the slightly blurry inscription on the stone, the gentleman is indeed a husband, mourning his deceased wife.  This sentimental hair memento, like most of the others in my collection, was made in France.  I believe it dates to around 1830 - 1840.  The inscription, written in French, best translates to English as "I will always cherish the memories, a tribute to my good wife".

The dealer from which I purchased this tender mourning scene had located it in England, along with a companion piece depicting another male mourner.  Perhaps that gentleman was a grown son.  I only wish I had known about the companion piece before it had sold to another buyer.  How nice to have had an opportunity to keep the pair together for posterity.  

Sadly, I cannot make out most of the inscription scribbled on the back of the frame, written with a lead pencil, in French, many years ago.  

Chronica Domus
Can any of you decipher what this scrawly inscription reads, I would dearly love to know?
(Image kindly enhanced by Toby Worthington)
Photo: Chronica Domus


Chronica Domus
"Neé Ferté" is a reference to the deceased wife's maiden name
Photo: Chronica Domus


There is some damage to the right-hand corner of the ebonized frame but not so much as to have deterred me from adding it to my collection.  Perhaps one day I will find a similar frame to replace it with or have someone make one.

Chronica Domus
Photo: Chronica Domus


As I grow older, there seem to be more cherished friends, family members, and beloved animal companions for whom I take a few moments to reflect upon each year on this day of remembrance.  My fond recollections of all the good times shared and all the fun we've enjoyed together never fail but to bring a smile to my face.

Is there anyone special you'll be remembering with fondness today, on All Souls' Day?

15 comments:

  1. Hello CD., What a marvelous, poignant object, and of very high quality. I would not replace the frame at all, as it obviously is the original because of the inscription. It starts "Hair of...(Cheveux de)" but that name is too difficult to read, except for the "born Ferté" part.

    Along with the Halloween fun, it is good also to remember the real people who have gone before us, sometimes leaving no legacy, sometimes something as charming as your mourning hair picture.
    --Jim

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Hello Jim,

      Yes, I see it now "hair of", thank you. The cursive isn't particularly clear so I could not make that out. Let's see if any of my other commenters are able to decipher the woman's name. I do hope so!

      I suppose you make a good point about the frame. What is unusual is that the central wooden ring which holds the mourning piece in place has been left "as is" and has not been water gilded. Most of the other pieces in my collection have a stamped brass ring (simulating gilding, I suppose), but not this one.

      Thank you again for taking the time to take a stab at the inscription. It was most helpful.

      Delete
    2. O.K., Here is a stab at that difficult name. The first word looks like "Mad." Since in French the abbreviation for Madam is Mme, perhaps this is short for Madeline. The second name looks like "Louris" The first letter seems to be L, and the end looks very much like "ris"

      (The second letter seems to have been gone over and has a dot above it, like an "i", which would make the name "Liuris". This name does exist, but seems to be mostly a Spanish given name.)

      The second letter does also resemble an "o", making the name once again Louris. A quick check on the internet shows a number of people named "Madeline Louris", making this at least a possibility. --Jim

      Delete
    3. Hello Jim,

      I think you are right. I agree, the "L" word must be the woman's last name, very possibly "Louris" as you've surmised. I'm still thrown by the "M" word but an abbreviated "Madeline" could well be it.

      Thank you for taking another crack at this. The inscription has bedevilled me since I acquired the piece and I've not been able to read a word of it.

      Delete
    4. Such a pleasure to share this conversation between two people who know so well what they are doing. xoxo.

      Delete
    5. Well, thank you, but I'd give the Sherlock award to my wonderful commenters in this instance. They've successfully unraveled much of what has eluded me since this mourning piece came into my world.

      Delete
  2. It is interesting how this day gets overshadowed by Halloween and guy fawkes etc. I just got back from the Korean Thanksgiving which is all about remembering all your dead family members. In fact, some Koreans commemorate up to great grandparents death anniversary. They seem to spend a lot of time on this in a formal sense. I think I prefer the once a year...

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. And, let's not forget the other holidays around this time too such as All Saints Day (got stuck in France once when our car clapped out and NOTHING was open as it was a national holiday), Day of The Dead (also celebrated on November 1 along with ASD). Lots of remembering going on here. As a Brit. I'd forgotten about Guy Fawkes Day so thanks for the reminder. Miss those fireworks and bonfires.

      Delete
  3. This intrigued me, so I copied the image and then gave it more definition. The first 2 words are obviously “hair of” but why would the 3rd appear to be “head”? ..and then on to “Louise" née Ferté… or perhaps NOT.
    Well okay then, it remains a mystery! But what is clear is that the piece is wonderful.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Hello Toby,

      Well, you are right when you state the piece "is wonderful" that's for sure (I feel lucky to have found it!). That word does look like "head" now that I'm looking at it again but surely not, as why would it be written in English? Also, I'm not certain the name is Louise as what you see as an "s" may be an "r". The mystery continues.

      Thanks so much for being such a good sport and taking a stab at the scribbles!

      Delete
    2. PS: Toby, thank you for the enhanced image of the inscription, which truly makes the writing more visible.

      I hope you don't mind too much that I replaced it with my rather poorly defined one (and gave you credit for it too!).

      Delete
  4. Many cultures have some type of observation of the dead and in some cases they prepare meals for the departed. It reminds me of a story my late father told me of two widowers who would visit their respective wives' graves. The Chinese widower would lay out a meal on his wife's grave while the American widower would place flowers. The American, overcome with curiosity, asked the Chinese man, "When does your wife eat the food?" The Chinese man smiled and responded, "When your wife comes to smell the flowers."
    Best,
    KL Gaylin

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Hello KL Gaylin,

      Absolutely lovely story, thank you, and it made me chuckle too. I hadn't thought about food offerings for the dead but you are quite right.

      Thanks, once again, for adding so much to the discussion. I learn so much from all of my wonderful commenters.

      Delete
  5. I think we could use more ceremonies around death and remembrance here, some that are not related to deaths in combat. Would serve us well.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. That's a really good point, Lisa, and I thank you for making it.

      Delete

Please do leave a comment as I enjoy the dialogue with my readership, thank you.

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...