Hairwork, Maria Leerintveld ca.1892 Hairwork, Maria Leerintveld ca.1892

Tot Zover

Hair souvenir as memento

In the nineteenth century, human hair was frequently used as "artist's material". Hair was not only used in paintings, but also in jewelry and, for example, watch straps. It expresses a personal connection that extends beyond death. At the time, these hairpieces were common as memento mori, but nowadays many museum visitors find it an uncanny form of grief.


Type: Mourning and memory object

Three dimensional hairwork with two images. A photo portrait is mounted in the top left corner, and a graveyard scene in the bottom right. The funeral monument shows Maria Leerintveld in small letters. No birth and death dates are stated. The dates, from family, are 1828-1892. The dark blond hair has been processed into a fantasy plant, in which various floral motifs appear.

19th Century Trend


If you had enough money you could hire a special hair artist. They had all kinds of model books for their customers. But you could also get started yourself, the Dutch women's magazine Pénélopé (published between 1821 and 1835) gave handicrafts, tips & tricks to women from the upper middle classes to incorporate hair into a performance or wall medallion. In the above hair work by Maria Leerintveld, the dark blond hair has been processed into a fantastical plant, in which various flower motifs occur.


Indeed, you can also make a graceful hairpiece in memory of a living or deceased loved one.

  1. Cut some strands of hair from this person, shake the shaver or pluck the hairbrush.
  2. Boil them in water with ashes (empty the fireplace, ashtrays or use cremation ashes)
  3. Place them out to dry afterwards
  4. Then trim the hair completely with the tip of the scissors.
  5. Then take a piece of milk glass, on which you can paint a nice scene with wood glue - or as shown here.
  6. Sprinkle the hair over the glue drawing
  7. And blow away the excess hair.


You will be amazed how an apparently simple assignments requires craftsmanship. Best of luck!


Recipe from magazine: Penélopé, Monthly work devoted to the female sex, Amsterdam 1821.

Read further