A favored folk art of the 18th and 19th century, hair art was a sentimental expression of grief and love, usually created by women whose identities have become anonymous over time. Human hair (from both living and deceased persons) was used to form flower bouquets, wreaths, braided jewelry chains, weeping willows, and painted scenes of mourning. Considered to be a form of portraiture, these were cherished tokens to preserve the memory of a deceased loved one, chart a vibrant family tree of the living, or to be traded as friendship keepsakes. It is rare to view such pieces publicly as they were created in domestic settings, for home display.
From six private collections, the Mütter Museum along with John Whitenight and Evan Michelson have assembled an exquisite group of hair art and jewelry as well as accompanying materials that discuss the social expectations of Victorian-era mourning rituals that ruled 19th century society with strict standards.
From the collection of John Whitenight & Frederick LaValley; photo by Alan Kolc
Created in conjunction with Morbid Anatomy and co-curated by collectors John Whitenight and Evan Michelson, along with Museum Special Project Manager Emily Snedden Yates.
The Mütter Museum extends a special thanks to Jennifer Berman, Eden Daniels, Sam Gassman, Pamela Moschini, Evan Michelson, John Whitenight, and Frederick LaValley for loaning material to the exhibition.
The Mütter Museum helps the public appreciate the mysteries and beauty of the human body while understanding the history of diagnosis and treatment of disease.