Tag Archives: Edwardian

A Pretty Face in a Mummy Case and Other Photographic Fads of 1908

mummy portrait fad

Mummy photography studio.


His best girl’s face peering from the depths of an ancient mummy case is the sight which is liable to startle the fellow who is not forewarned by the article. It is the latest fad which has struck London, the fountain head of many fads and foibles, especially those of the fair sex. The photograph is not gruesome as one might suspect at first thought, but on the other hand, the coarse lines of the mummy case and the crude hieroglyphics thereon, serve to accentuate the pretty lines of the girl’s face.
Some of these pictures have been brought back by members of the smart set who have been abroad for the winter.
The idea originated with a London photographer who had made a trip to ancient Egypt with a scientific expedition, and while there, he decided to make a portrait of the pretty face of the daughter of one of the members of the expedition. She is a lovely creature who had accompanied her father, one of the leading Egyptologists of the world. In order that the picture might be a souvenir of the occasion, he conceived the idea of placing her sparkling eyes and rosy cheeks in a mummy setting.
This was a comparatively easy trick for a photographer. He made a large picture of a mummy and then a picture of the lady. Cutting out the face he neatly pasted it over that of the mummy. The result was startling and perplexing and upon exhibiting the picture on his return to London he found that he had made a great hit. He was besought on every hand by fashionable women to duplicate the picture. Soon it was necessary to set up a studio especially fitted out for this kind of work. The artist made use of some oriental material which he had brought back with him from his trip, and had several mummy cases made to suit his demands by a Parisian who had achieved a world reputation for forging ancient pottery, carvings and other things which have been uncovered by the investigators in the buried cities of the Far East.
The Frenchman entered into the spirit of the occasion and turned out some mummy shells which defy detection. This is only a front, behind which the model stands with her face to an opening corresponding to that once occupied by the mummy. The surroundings are so harmonious that the photograph, when finished, has the appearance of one which was taken in the tomb of some dusty and long-departed queen of the Nile country.
Another novelty which has been recently introduced in this line is a set of whist cards with real portraits in the kings, queens and jacks.
The first order of this kind was undertaken by a New York stationer who supplies novelties to such bloated bondholders as can pay his price for them. He secured the services of a clever photographer who procured a deck of cards of such material as suited his purpose and in all of the picture cards the faces were neatly removed and the portraits of the different members of the club substituted. The deck was placed in a handsome case and given as a present to a popular member of the club whose merriment was responsible for much fun enjoyed by the members of the club after the more serious matter of card playing had been disposed of at their weekly gatherings.
The receipt of this unusual gift, which floored the popular member completely, combined the functions of a handsome set of cards and a photograph album. They are put into actual use only on rare occasions.
Another fad in the line of portraiture, which has the stamp of foreign approval is the “eye picture.” A small oblong rim of gold about the size of an almond is supplied with a ring which makes it possible to carry it on a fob or watch chain. This is to receive a photograph, almost full size of the eye of the wearer’s sweetheart, wife or some dear friend. This is a novelty that has been well received abroad and the more up-to-date photographers are making them to order for patrons.
Philadelphia [PA] Inquirer 3 May 1908: p. 1

Mrs Daffodil’s Aide-memoire: That photo-shy person over at Haunted Ohio has written more on this somewhat macabre fad at http://hauntedohiobooks.com/news/snapped-for-eternity-the-victorian-mummy-portrait-fad/

Mrs Daffodil invites you to join her on the curiously named “Face-book,” where you will find a feast of fashion hints, fads and fancies, and historical anecdotes

You may read about a sentimental succubus, a vengeful seamstress’s ghost, Victorian mourning gone horribly wrong, and, of course, Mrs Daffodil’s efficient tidying up after a distasteful decapitation in A Spot of Bother: Four Macabre Tales.