Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Teeny tiny deadly things

"Morgues and crime scenes were hardly places for ladies of good breeding to discuss, let alone visit."

So, in characteristic fashion, I discover Frances Glessner Lee long after the rest of the world does. What can I say, it isn't easy living in a state of calculated obliviousness. In any case, it isn't when you find her, I suppose, that matters: it's finding her at all. Imagine my euphoria when I learned that not only was this woman a fellow dioramist, but she made tiny dioramas of real-life crime scenes! What's more, she was a society woman, which made the contrast between her gentle good breeding and the gruesomeness of her chosen art all the more delightful.


"Conducted within the contours of conventionality, Glessner Lee’s activities were consonant with the one career she was expected to assume, that of society matron. Her tables were elegantly appointed, her fortune endowed a worthy cause, and her leisure time was productively devoted to a hobby many women enjoyed: making miniature scenes."

Oh yes, please continue!

" [H]er dinner guests dissected grisly details of crime scenes over their consommé [and] within her dollhouse dioramas, cheery dotted-swiss curtains and floral wallpapers belied the presence of dead bodies..."

As if that wasn't enough, the brilliant woman gave her circa-1940s dioramas the best name ever: The Nutshell Studies of Unexplained Death.


Oh and, sure, yeah, they were scientifically significant and had some major impact on criminologists at Harvard, etc. But for me, I think it's just enough that they are. Would I have liked them better if they served no purpose? No. I'm just sayin. I mean, sure she revolutionized the science of forensic pathology, but it would have been as charming coming from someone who wasn't a millionaire heiress? I mean, I'm picturing her as a sort of Katharine Hepburn/Carole Lomard type, you know? Or maybe, in her later years, a J.B. Fletcher type:

Anyway, this completely badass woman who took dentist's drills to her dollhouses is now the subject of a new film:

Let's all just bask in her awesomeness. And perhaps I can convince my more ghoulish family members to buy me the book.

P.S. Scholarly sources on the preceding quotes can be found here. More info on the amazing woman who took these photos can be found here and here.