Atheist Relics, Couples’ Cremation, and Victorian 'Infidels'

Season 2, Episode 6,   Sep 25, 08:30 AM

Emma and Christy look at Alfred Gilbert's sculpture Mors Janua Vitae (c. 1905–1907) at the Royal College of Surgeons, London — a life-sized bronze which houses the remains of the couple Edward and Eliza Macgloghlin. We talk relics and transi tombs; Victorian atheism and the history of unbelief; cremation, miasma, and lead-lined coffins; books bound in human skin; Victorian sex (and free love!); affairs between artists and patrons; Welsh druids; paganism; birth control and the throuple; infidel feminism; and abolishing the family.

CLICK HERE TO VIEW THE IMAGES WE DISCUSS, as well as complete show notes, references, and suggestions for further reading.

Alfred Gilbert, Mors Janua Vitae (c. 1905–1907)
Henry Weekes, John Hunter (1864)
Etruscan couple tomb: The Sarcophagus of the Spouses (c. 530–510 BCE)
Alfred Gilbert, Mors Janua Vitae detail: panel
Alfred Gilbert, Mors Janua Vitae detail: 'baby angel'
Examples of G. F. Watts paintings: She Shall Be Called Woman (c. 1875–92); Orpheus and Euridice (exh. 1890)
Photograph of the lobby of the Royal College of Surgeons, from Artistic Possessions at the Royal College of Surgeons of England (1967)
Alfred Gilbert, plaster (and wood) version of Mors Janua Vitae, exhibited 1907
Alfred Gilbert, The Virgin (1884)
Relic example: the bones of St Valentine, Basilica of Santa Maria, Rome
Relic example: the Veil of Veronica (cloth said to have wiped Christ's face on the way to the crucifixion), Vatican version
Nineteenth-century mourning jewellery made with hair of the deceased
Case containing William Morris's hair, by Robert Catterson Smith and Charles James Fox (1896–97)
Transi tomb example from Boussu, Belgium (16th century)
Victorian garden cemeteries example: Norwood cemetery (1849)
Alfred Gilbert, Mors Janua Vitae detail: mushrooms or people?
Spiritualist painting referencing 'Mors Janua Vitae' (written on the book on the floor): Evelyn De Morgan, The Hourglass (1904)
Joseph Noel Paton, Mors Janua Vitae (1866)
Photograph of Dr William Price (1884)
Alfred Gilbert, Anteros, in Piccadilly Circus (1893)

This season of ‘Drawing Blood’ was funded in part by the Association for Art History.
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‘Drawing Blood’ cover art © Emma Merkling
All audio and content © Emma Merkling and Christy Slobogin
Intro music: ‘There Will Be Blood’ by Kim Petras, © BunHead Records 2019. We’re still trying to get hold of permissions for this song – Kim Petras text us back!!