Painted Skull

19th century


Hamburg, Germany

According to its inscription, this is the skull of Joh. Kögl, a man from Tyrol. The designation “youth” refers not to the age of the deceased, but to his unmarried status. This is also indicated by the wreath of bright green leaves and white blossoms that is painted on the skull. In parts of the Alps, the motif of the garland of leaves was reserved for unmarried persons. This skull is from a secondary burial, in which the skull and bones of the deceased were reposited in a chapel of the dead, often referred to as an ossuary or charnel house. From the late 18th until the early 20th century, in Austria and parts of Bavaria and Switzerland, it was customary to paint the skull beforehand upon the wish of the family of the deceased. Gravediggers or itinerant artists carried out this task. Museum director Georg Thilenius purchased the skull in 1919 from the collection of Marie Andree-Eysn, who conducted cultural anthropological research in the Bavarian-Austrian region of the Alps as early as the first decade of the 20th century.

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  • Title: Painted Skull
  • Date Created: 19th century
  • Type: Skull
  • Publisher: Museum of Ethnology Hamburg
  • Rights: Museum of Ethnology Hamburg | Photo: Paul Schimweg
  • External Link: Homepage Museum für Völkerkunde Hamburg
  • Medium: bones, pigment
  • on display: not on display
  • Date of Acquisition: 1919
  • Context of Origin: Tyrol, Austria
  • Collection: Coll. Marie Andree-Eysn