The Victorian age was full of customs that were as macabre as they were whimsical. From "lifelike" death portraits to Victorian mothers-in-mourning portraits to veritable corpse-unwrapping parties, the era teemed with fascinating - and astonishingly run-of-the-mill - ghoulish traditions. But while posthumous photos can at least be understood to be tokens of grief, or sorrow-driven memento mori art, other customs were far more enigmatic. For instance: why were mothers in the Victorian era sometimes camouflaged in portraits of their children?
The answer is pretty simple: due to the long exposure times of the cameras available at the time, those posing for a photo had to sit as statue-like as possible to ensure there was no blurring of the image. Anyone with kids know keeping them that still for an extended period of time is a real nightmare, and so the method of "hiding" mothers within the shot was born. Some of the mothers seem to be actually trying to blend in with surrounding objects, just as a chameleon or praying mantis would. At other times, they appear to be wrapped in giant curtains or cloaks like "a black-draped Grim Reaper" looming in the background, in the words of this feature from the Guardian. And in other, still more disquieting portraits, the children in question appear to be deceased, their corpses propped up alongside their camouflaged female parents.
Read on to take a pictorial tour of this strange custom... and don't forget to vote up your favorite bizarre Victorian portraits.
Possibly Dead Child Being Propped Up By Two Dark Entities
Child Being Held By Doom Itself
Twins Being Held By Either An Angel Or Demon
A Child Held By A Ghoulishly Shy MotherPhoto: Odyssey Online/The Guardian