Memento Mori - October 14th 1:30pm

Come and hear about all of the weird stuff surrounding death that the Victorians invented or made extremely popular. They really were obsessed with the macabre, but maybe they’d think our obsession with denying our own mortality is weird!

Here’s a little teaser of the first in our October lectures. Sunday October 14th at 1:30pm, we’ll make the coffee.


by Vanessa Warne

Executed criminals; famous authors and artists; celebrated political leaders; beloved children: though made for different reasons, the death masks of a very wide range of people were created by Victorians who used plaster to preserve the faces of the recently dead. The morning after Charles Dickens died, a sketch was made of him on his death bed and, soon after, his face was covered with plaster that captured what his daughter Katey described in a letter as “the beauty and pathos of his dear face as it lay on that little bed in the dining-room.” The death masks that Victorians made and valued might be understood as morbid objects, but there were treasured objects and were often placed on display in homes, copies sometimes being produced and shared with absent relatives. This talk explores the making of death masks and asks how a pure white plaster cast of a deceased person’s face, cold to the touch, could comfort Victorians and retain the power to fascinate us a century after its creation.

William Wordsworth’s death mask

William Wordsworth’s death mask