Victorian Hair Artists Guild
Sepia Painting

Sepia painting is a picture painted in brown tones (sepia), in which  the paint was made of finely chopped hair.  These pictures were almost always of a scenic nature.  The mourning pieces, often times were depicted with a lady in classical attire as in the brooch shown above.  Most of the painting are done on ivory or glass.  Many times the fine lines were done with India ink and then the hair was used as embellishment.  Some are entirely hair.  

Sepia Jewelry

Sepia painted jewelry became popular in the 1700's if not earlier and was still being made in the 1800's.  Most popular of the mourning sepia paintings  were the scenes in a cemetery, almost all of them incorporated a gravestone, a weeping willow or other tree which was embellished with hair.  These pieces are usually quite small, around 1" in length, the pin running upright instead of horizontally.  There were also rings made with sepia paintings.

Sepia Pictures

Most of these pictures are  around 4" - 5" in diameter.  Most of the pictures are of scenery and almost always include trees, sometimes a castle, and frequently a cemetery scene.

The most finely executed pieces of sepia painting appear to come from France.  Other pieces are known to have been done in England and the United States.

Symbolism was important to the Victorians and they incorporated a lot of symbolism in the sepia paintings.  The picture above has the two hearts together which indicate a husband and wife, birds, which is the eternal life, the dog indicates the fidelity of the surviving spouse, and the flowers on each side of the stone are forget me nots.  The initials of the deceased on on the tombstone, and the evergreen trees represent everlasting.

Hairwork Techniques

Antique Sepia Picture Courtesy of Darlene at Things Gone By

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