Welcome back, hair/history enthusiasts!
I want to explore more of the weirder side of history with you today by sharing some exciting information about the newest edition to my personal collection.
On Friday, I visited my favorite store, Noir Arts and Oddities, in Kansas City. It’s an amazing little shop where you can always find something peculiar, and oh did I find a treasure this week! Just when I start to think that I’ve seen every variant on hair art, I am inevitably proven wrong.
Not having seen a piece quite like this, and having no way of knowing for certain, I can only speculate that this was either meant to be a paperweight or something purely decorative. As you can see here, there are two types of hair encased under the glass, and you can easily see a dried fern and flowers all pressed against a background of silk.
Often in the Victorian era, works of hair art contained many symbolic clues to give insight as to what the piece represents. If you can speak their unspoken language, you can learn very much! Many different symbols were used to portray various hidden meanings. Particularly in the Victorian era, the language of flowers, often referred to as floridology, was very important. Just as we know roses today to mean love, each flower (or plant) has its own distinct message.
Victorians used ferns to communicate a variety of sentiments that include shelter, confidence, magic, and fascination. As I’ve touched on in past blogs, hair art was not always used for mourning, so given the presence of a fern, I do not believe that this was a mourning piece (at least not one with a somber, grieving undertone). In fact, given the short white hair and the longer brown hair, I wonder if this is a piece honoring a mother/daughter relationship. The white hair on top, brown hair on bottom, and the fern between the two may be indicative of a mother sheltering and protecting her daughter.
One thing I thought was interesting was that the back of this piece is not sealed off. Upon turning it over, you only see a thin cardboard back.
Being very curious and very, VERY careful, I decided to remove the thin cover to see what I could find. I’m THRILLED that I did this, as I found some specific information hidden inside that I wouldn’t have known otherwise. First, I found a date of May 1903 written on the back of the cardboard.
The next secret I found was a tiny slip of paper sitting loose behind the back covering. One side appears to be a page that had unrelated writing, as the other side appears to be a signature, and the paper is cut in a shape that seems to intentionally fit the signature. I would venture to guess that this is the artist’s signature who just signed the reverse side of a recycled piece of paper.
Under the signature, I found a folded to shape piece of parchment that clearly makes out “Georgia 1903” as well as some fading, difficult to read words that don’t appear to be English. If I had to guess, I would say it is likely German or Swedish.
Getting very excited about all that I’d found, I decided to take even that paper out to see what was behind it. I then found loose paper and fabric, but within the folds of the fabric was a tiny calendar from 1903! There were not any specific dates events noted on the calendar, but it’s interesting to see the month layout, and some of the holidays observed, that are different from the calendars we use today.
I would like to note here that the only reason I decided to remove the back was that it was not actually sealed, and unless you are a professional, I would never recommend tearing apart any antiques for risk that it may be too delicate to handle without risking its integrity. This particular piece, I was able to put back together completely intact, but this is not always going to be the case.
I would like to thank my friend Pam at Noir Arts and Oddities for always helping me discover wonderful treasures and my friend Aundrea for being the featured photographer and hand in a number of these photos.
Your hair detective,
Never Forgotten and Noir are both gearing up for Halloween! Noir Arts and Oddities is now offering work by Courtney Lane in the boutique, so make sure to visit for the most uniquely creepy Halloween decorations around! What’s waiting for YOU in the parlor? 1609 W 39th St, Kansas City, MO 64111