In olden days, when the child of wealthy parents died, the family would pay to have a family portrait painted that included the deceased. The recently departed was painted as being alive, though might be staring off into the distance while the rest of the family faced forward. Other signs of a mourning painting are a child holding dead flowers, or dead flowers in a vase near the sitter.
Photography was invented in Paris - there is some argument about that - around 1839 (the first "photograph" was taken in 1827 and took 8 hours to develop).
Though having one's picture taken was costly, it was not nearly so prohibitively priced as having a portrait painted. As a result, in Victorian times many people had portraits taken of family members after they had died. As with the earlier paintings, the mourning photographs intended to depict a "living" person.
Most of the time, the deceased was "asleep."
Sometimes the deceased was propped up along side living family.
I should point out that it is the young girl above who is being propped.
Taken 9 DAYS after she died.
There are some people today who feel that this old practice is "creepy" and are glad that we now properly respect the dead. These people forget that not everyone had a camera back then, and mortality was much higher. That postmortem picture is all that the parents have left of their little boy or girl. Think about it - there's no other way to remember what the laughing child looked like before the sickness or accident. Parents don't want to just bury their baby and forget, so they have a picture taken as if their child was napping.
I'm not saying we should still do this today, but I understand why they did it then, and I just wanted to share some weird history with you just before Halloween.