Victorians were famous for mourning photography - in which the dead are posed as if they were “just sleeping” and photographed, creating an expensive memento mori that was often the only photograph a family would have of the deceased loved one.
However, there is a sub-genre of mourning photography, in which photographers clamp and pose the dearly departed in such a way that they look fully awake — usually standing up, eyes either held open by some unknown mechanism or with pupils painted over closed eyes.
The girl in the photo above is dead. If you look closely you can see a base behind the girl’s feet and a post would go up from that with clamps at the waist and neck and the clothing would be open at the back. The arms would have stiff wires running at the back to hold them in place. Also notice the strange placement of the hands. The pupils are painted on the closed eyelids.
I once saw a whole book of mourning photos. Fascinating stuff.
It may seem macabre to us now to do this, but think about it… we are now surrounded by photos. They are so cheap and easy. Even most of our phones have cameras now. However, it used to be a fairly expensive, exclusive thing. These parents likely had no photos of their child while she lived. Getting a photo of her just after passing would be one of their only remembrances of how she actually looked.