Saturday, April 26, 2014

Unusual Artifacts: A Band of Hair Lace, 1625-1675

Band of Hair Lace
Human hair and horse hair
The Victoria & Albert Museum
Though it seems strange and almost savage to modern eyes, for centuries, human hair (often that of a deceased person) was used to make delicate objects which served as a memorial or remembrance of a loved one.

Few of these pieces have survived over time. The few that do remain are usually from the Victorian era when this practice was quite popular. Every so often, an older piece of hair art is found. This particular piece of hair art takes the form of a band of lace which would have been worn as a bracelet.

The hair was delicately worked with needles. Here, we see blonde and brown hair entwined into an intricate pattern which is supported in bands at the top and bottom by stronger horsehair.

Seventeenth Century poet, John Donne wrote of the practice in his work, “The Relique.”
When my grave is broke up againe 
Some second ghest to entertaine ... 
And he that digs it, spies 
A bracelet of bright haire about the bone, 
Will he not let us alone 
And thinke that there a loving couple lies ...

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