Banner Ladies
December 5, 2017 3:19 PM   Subscribe

Oh my. In the photograph advertising coffin plates for an undertaker, is the woman actually dead? There is a stand behind her feet like you typically see in a Victorian death portrait. Or is it a "joke" that the Victorian viewer is meant to pick up on? I'm guessing it's the latter, but wow.
posted by to recite so charmingly at 3:45 PM on December 5

Fascinating! I found a couple Pinterest pages with some additional examples. I think barrel girl is my favorite so far.
posted by holyrood at 4:14 PM on December 5

These are wonderful! Especially loved the Heinz lady, she looks very Pittsburgh.
posted by kinnakeet at 4:31 PM on December 5

I was once in a production of Pauline Viardot’s Cendrillon (Cinderella), for which I had co-written the English libretto. Since we had small forces, we envisioned the three-part ladies car us as a trio of “foreign princesses.” My character was the German Princess, and in rehearsals I tried to work out ways to distinguish her as such. Besides a Colonel Klink accent and some heel-clicking, I didn't get very far until I got to the costuming stage. In addition to braidbuns like the little girl from The Sound of Music, I made a brooch about the size of my hand out of paper clay painted gold, in the shape of a Bavarian pretzel, with seed pearls for grains of salt. I stitched it to the front of my ball gown so that when I entered with my back to the audience and then turned around, I would have a big reveal. Reeder, they laughed. And I loved them. And that's what it's all about.

So, you'll understand how tickled I was the first time I saw this picture a few years back. I posted it to Facebook, and all my old cast mates knew exactly what I was talking about.
posted by The Underpants Monster at 4:34 PM on December 5 [4 favorites]

In the photograph advertising coffin plates for an undertaker, is the woman actually dead? There is a stand behind her feet like you typically see in a Victorian death portrait.

IIRC, those things were actually just plain old posing aids to keep living people sufficiently for the long exposures of cameras at the time. So, there was no joke to be made by or for Victorians. The whole idea of "corpse photos" is a thoroughly modern invention.
posted by tobascodagama at 6:17 PM on December 5 [1 favorite]

It's nice to be reminded that weird stuff happened before the internet too.
posted by Salvor Hardin at 6:47 PM on December 5 [3 favorites]

Gosh, it’s like seeing the DNA of the term “sex sells” coming up through the mitochondria of advertising.
posted by valkane at 7:56 PM on December 5 [4 favorites]

Go back far enough and we should be able to find Mitochondrial Advertising Eve. At least if you believe in the doctrine of Original Sign.
posted by flabdablet at 8:08 PM on December 5 [3 favorites]

I love everything about these.

I had collected a bunch of images as beauty queens adorned with their subject queendom a few years ago (e.g, the sausage queens bedecked with sausages, the cactus queen in a cactus bra, the radio queen bedecked in bolt-shaped things) , but it's fascinating to see the antecedents.
posted by julen at 8:46 PM on December 5

I was in the process of researching another FPP and came across these. Scroll down for a few New Zealand 'poster' costume pictures.
posted by Start with Dessert at 1:36 AM on December 6 [1 favorite]

Proto-Instagram Models
posted by jrishel at 6:22 AM on December 6

The whole idea of "corpse photos" is a thoroughly modern invention.

No, it's not, and there are many, many examples of Victorian postmortem photography. See Kelly Christian's 2013 Cultural Studies Association conference paper "Bearing Bodies and Brutality: Death, Embalming, and Postmortem Photography in the 19th Century" for an introduction.
posted by ryanshepard at 7:15 AM on December 6 [2 favorites]

Wisconsin Death Trip is another notorious source.
posted by Halloween Jack at 8:20 AM on December 6

Also, I had to search to find out that what the Wilber lady was advertising was light bulbs. You don't want to know what I thought they were at first.
posted by Halloween Jack at 8:22 AM on December 6

Yeah, I've got Heinz logos and suchlike all over my dress. Yinze got somethin' to fuckin' say about it?
posted by GCU Sweet and Full of Grace at 8:29 AM on December 6

What is puzzling me about the Wilber lady is... if those are light bulbs, why are some of them dark to black?
posted by tavella at 9:37 AM on December 6

My understanding is that while there were postmortem photographs they did not prop the dead people up with stands. Here's an article about it.
posted by interplanetjanet at 8:09 PM on December 6 [1 favorite]

Yes, that's what I was referring to.
posted by tobascodagama at 8:25 AM on December 7 [1 favorite]

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