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Lynda Cain
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Published: 13 October 2017

The Art of Memento Mori and Mourning Jewelry

Freeman’s is delighted to offer the Memento Mori and Mourning Jewelry collection of the late Anita and Irvin G. Schorsch in the Nov. 15 American Furniture, Folk & Decorative Arts auction.

This remarkable and extensive collection of over 150 tokens of mortality, grief, commemoration and remembrance, represents over 200 years of private and public expressions of death. The collection vividly documents western societal changes: from graphic symbols of skulls, skeletons and hourglasses of the rock crystal slides of the 17th century, to the Neo-Classical depictions of idealistic perfection and heaven in lockets and rings from the late 18th century.

As collectors and historians, Anita and Irvin Schorsch did not limit themselves to the traditional areas of Americana collecting of furniture, decorative arts, needlework, textiles, fine arts and silver. Their interest in all tangible aspects of American and English life and craftmanship, from the 17th to 19th centuries, led the couple, especially Anita, to a passionate immersion in the study and collecting of the artful expressions of mourning.

Anita’s intense scholarship in the area lead to the 1976 publication, “Mourning Becomes America, Mourning Art in the New Nation.” The publication was released in conjunction with an exhibition of the same name at the Pennsylvania State Museum and the Albany Institute of History and Art. Ultimately, the Schorsch’s established the unique, Museum of Mourning Art for their collection at Arlington Cemetery in Drexel Hill, Pennsylvania in 1990.

The January 2016 auction of the Schorsch’s collection of furniture, decorative and fine arts from their famous Hidden Glen Farms home was a landmark event. Freeman’s Nov. 15 auction of the Memento Mori and Mourning Jewelry is expected to be equally paramount, as the sale may be the largest public offering of mourning material to-date.

The auction also includes 19th century mourning costume and accessories for men and women, a child’s mourning costume, presidential  mourning ribbons and props and furnishings exhibited at the Museum of Mourning Art.

View the American Furniture, Folk and Decorative Arts Catalogue.

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