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The Victorian Era, so named because it spanned the reign of Queen Victoria (1837-1901), was a period of prosperity and “refined sensibilities,” where morality was put on high and Her Majesty set the example. During this period, popular attitudes within the realms of spirituality and art shifted towards romanticism and mysticism, ultimately facilitating a deep, cultural fascination with death, mourning, and the supernatural.
Upon the death of both her mother and husband in the same year, Queen Victoria demonstrated her grief through elaborate mourning rituals that soon became customary among the culture of the time. Victorian families followed suit by having expensive funerals, repressing social behaviors in accordance with strict guidelines, and wearing mourning clothing for an extended period of time. Part of the lavish mourning attire included hair work jewelry which incorporated a lock of hair from the deceased, often braided or tied in elaborate knots, and set in Jet. Donning this unique kind of jewelry was a way for mourners to commemorate their deceased loved one and reflect to others the deep sorrow they felt within.
Preceding the Queen’s familial tragedies, the rise of Spiritualism in the 1840s was another contributing factor in the Victorian’s obsession with death. Spiritualism is a belief and practice based on communing with the dead through a spiritual medium. It was a widely held belief amongst Spiritualists that departed souls lingered in a spirit world where they continued to evolve, becoming more advanced than the living. Therefore, communication was sought after in hopes of moral direction and illuminating the shrouded mysteries of death and the afterlife. The most popular way to commune with the dead was by holding a séance led by a gifted spirit medium. Participants would sit in a circle, often joining hands, as the psychic would mediate messages between the living and the dead. Queen Victoria herself attended numerous séances in which she made contact with her deceased loved ones. Her Majesty’s enthusiasm for Spiritualism certainly contributed to her subsequent mourning rituals and the movement’s popularity.
This illustration is an ode to the graceful, refined taste of the Victorian era and the culture’s romantic fascination with death as seen through mourning and Spiritualism.
Victorian Ritual is an original illustration, drawn and screenprinted by Adrienne Rozzi as part of her 2016 "13 Sketches of Halloween" series. Printed by hand on archival "fawn" colored paper. Each print comes signed by the artist.
Measures approximately 11" x 11"
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