When we’re out playing shows, people who visit our merchandise table are often curious about the image on our band t-shirts. The Victor Mourning t-shirt design replicates a Victorian era mourning brooch, most likely of English origin, created between 1860-80. The original brooch is made of gutta percha, a natural latex material from the sap of a Malayan tree, first discovered by Westerners in 1842. This material could be placed in a mold or carved by hand to create detailed three-dimensional objects with great accuracy, as seen in this brooch, in which the fingernails, flora, and sleeve cuff are rendered delicately and precisely.
Victorian mourning jewelry traditions derived from memento mori images that date back to ancient Rome and flourished in the Middle Ages, but the apex of sentimental mourning jewelry was reached during the latter half of the nineteenth century. Some of the most compelling examples of Victorian era jewelry are those created to commemorate the loss of a loved one.
Mourning jewelry was often made of jet (the fossilized remains of wood decaying under water) or one of its more affordable alternatives including gutta percha; vulcanite (invented in the 1830s, it is similar in appearance to gutta percha, but is made from Indian rubber treated with sulfur); or French jet (black glass made to resemble true jet)—materials whose black color made them especially suitable for mourning.
Following the example set by Queen Victoria (1819-1901), who remained in mourning for the rest of her life after the death of her husband, Prince Albert, in 1861, mourning evolved into a rigidly structured code of practices that dictated proper behavior and the outward symbolism of clothing and jewelry. (Women, and widows in particular, were expected to adhere strictly to accepted mourning etiquette, and failure to do so was highly frowned upon; the standards for men were briefer and far more relaxed.)
The hand was a popular motif in Victorian imagery, and was associated with affection and love. It is found frequently on calling cards, where it may clasp another hand in friendship or offer a gift of flowers; in mourning jewelry, where it may be intended to point to the heart of the wearer, hold a sheaf of wheat, a sprig of yew, or a bouquet of forget-me-nots; and on gravestones, where a single hand may point heavenward or two clasped hands signify the heavenly reunion of a husband and wife divided by death.
In mourning jewelry, the image of a single hand holding a garland of roses and yew typically symbolized the death of a husband or sweetheart. The yew, a conifer, has been associated with death since ancient times, and it is known as the “death tree” throughout much of Europe. In the United Kingdom, the yew is most often found growing in churchyards and cemeteries, where it is seen as a symbol of mortality and the transcendence of death; in the nineteenth century it became a popular mourning emblem. In this context, roses are associated with condolence and sorrow, and symbolize the brevity of earthly existence.
We think it’s a fitting logo for The Victor Mourning.