Wednesday, April 12, 2006

Yes, it's time for another Odd Art post

Many people have probably thought to themselves: L, we love the velvet paintings and creepy sculptures, but haven't you forgotten to post about art that reflects popular urban legends and mass hysteria?

Wonder no more! Whereas pieces like this reflect current popular delusions, to-day we will focus on oddly artistic popular delusions from the past:

That's right: the fear of premature burial!

Back in the 1800s, there was a very real popular fear over the "risk" of being accidentally buried alive, and there was much public debate over the medical determination of death. It will perhaps surprise no one that I own an entire book on the subject: Buried Alive: The Terrifying History of our Most Primal Fear by Jan Bondeson, a really wonderful author who has also researched famous circus freaks, sideshow hoaxes and various other oddities.

The painting above is titled L'inhumation Precipitee and was painted by Antoine Wiertz during what was probably the peak of mass hysteria over premature burial. It's terribly amusing in a creepy, Edgar Allen Poe-ish way, but it isn't half so amusing as the editorials of the time, as well as some of the very real patents that were requested for various devices to prevent such an occurrence. Apparently, consumptive girls were always fainting from the vapours or melancholia before being prematurely buried -- only to awaken and become Mad.

But then again, this is the same century that saw our ancestors being obsessed with things like fairies and phrenology

* previous Odd Art posts are listed in the drop down box under my avatar


Blogger Weary Hag said...

Why yes L, I was thinking that just last evening in fact. Glad you posted this. :)

I suppose I'm a bit of a Taphophobe. This painting you've shared is creepy indeed.

Thanks for another neat post!

8:57 AM  
Blogger L said...

weary hag: you are quite welcome :)

10:18 AM  

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