by Sarah Nehama
When I was researching my post on Mourning Jewellery, I added a couple of books to my mammoth ‘Christmas money = cemetery books’ order, because the topic was so interesting and vast. One of them was In Death Lamented, which I had already wanted to read because it was available on the Metropolitan Museum of Art’s website during the ‘Death Becomes Her’ exhibition (although it was actually produced to accompany another exhibition by the Massachusetts Historical Society), sadly I couldn’t afford the postage from The Met! Luckily I found a copy in the UK and waited with bated breath for it to arrive.
I sat down and read this book cover to cover in one sitting – something I don’t often do with academic books. Although this is partly because I don’t have the time (some plus sides to being ill eh?), it also shows how approachable this volume is.
It’s very informative but also crammed full of incredible full colour, detailed photographs, illustrating every style and period, accompanied by wonderful biographical details about many of the pieces held by the Massachusetts Historical Society.
The text which explains the styles related to each period is relatively brief, but is concise, well-thought out and I found it very useful. Especially the clarification that Baroque, Rococo and Neoclassical styles overlapped in their use and that sometimes elements of 2 styles were found on one piece (which is shown in some photos too). I also loved the information about how American styles were influenced by fashions in Europe and by trade increasing the availability of materials, as well as how events such as the death of George Washington, later Abraham Lincoln and the Civil War more widely affected mourning jewellery.
I really recommend this book to anyone with an interest in mourning jewellery and mourning traditions more widely. The website for the Massachusetts Historical Society, has a preview of a few pages and gives a link to purchase the book through Amazon (UK buyers use this link).
I’m still looking for more information about mourning jewellery, any of my readers have a recommendation for books to put on the ‘Birthday money = cemetery books’ list?!