Severed Heads and Arsenic: The Art of Victorian Lowbrow

What do sideshow freaks, strange medical exhibits,  funeral rituals,  Opium dens, and graveyards have in common? Why Madame Talbot of course.

The woman in question is a reclusive self-taught artist holed up in her 135 year-old haunted house in Oregon. Her interest include just about anything that has to do with the Victorian era 19th century. She also has a morbid fascination with Victorian death rituals and mourning techniques, medical antiques, blood letting, and loves visiting old cemeteries and graveyards.

This fascination can be witnessed in the items she has for sale.

Hand painted tombstones

Hand painted tombstones

Vintage medical instruments

Vintage medical instruments

Hand created "stump" dolls

Hand created "stump" dolls

She also creates “curios” out of various vintage (and often macabre) items. Take her shrunken head. Not only is it authentic, but she also includes instructions on how to make your own shrunken head, should you be interested. Here’s a sample:

Shrunken Head

Shrunken Head

How to Prepare a Shrunken-Head After the enemy had been decapitated (preferably while he was still alive), the head is cut off below the neck, taking with it a section of the skin from the chest and back.

On the back of the head, a slit is made starting from the neck going nearly to the top. Once the skin has been successfully pulled away from the skull without damaging the face, the skull is tossed into the river. The eyes are sewn shut with jungle fiber and the lips are pierced with wooden pegs.

She’s also on the lookout for new grisly items. At a recent auction, she picked up a Victorian skin grafting razor (think of a cheese slicer) and a stomach pump in velvet lined case. One wonders what you would do with a cheese sized slice of skin.

Madame Talbot is self-taught in nearly medium she tackles: painting, pen-and-ink illustration, and framed curio exhibits. She is a purist when it comes to creating her Framed Curio Exhibits. No gaffs or fakes here. If it says real human heart, she means real human heart. She creates several curios a without the help of any assistants or  machines (She sews everything by hand using only a needle and thread). She works alone and seems to like it that way.

Sample Curios

Sample Curios

And as with all of her subject matter, Madame Talbot works within traditional Victorian Lowbrow themes that are at once timeless and current, merging the past and present with each individual piece that she creates in order to insure quality and care are of the utmost importance.

Victorian Lowbrow is a term coined by Madame Talbot to describe her work. She describes it as items both Victorian (of, relating to, or belonging to the period of the reign of Queen Victoria) and lowbrow (being uncultivated; vulgar; characteristic of a person who is not cultivated or does not have intellectual tastes). However a perusal through inventory shows a sophisticated array of macabre items guaranteed to send any Victorian steampunk or gothic into a frenzy.

Chris Kalidor


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