A Matter Of Life And Death

From the #HistoryOfUs series: Memento Mori, c. 1520

Bode-Museum, Staatliche Museen zu Berlin

Memento Mori Sideview (c. 1520) by Ascribed to Chicart BaillyBode-Museum, Staatliche Museen zu Berlin

'Memento Mori' translates to "Remember you must die." What a cheery thought. Yet this 16th century statue was actually created to remind us that life is short, damn short.

Memento Mori Front (c. 1520) by Ascribed to Chicart BaillyBode-Museum, Staatliche Museen zu Berlin

On the one side a woman – youthful and beautiful with long flowing hair, holding a rose, and surrounded by a monkey eating apples and fools playing music (in other words, just a typical night out in Berlin).

Memento Mori Back (c. 1520) by Ascribed to Chicart BaillyBode-Museum, Staatliche Museen zu Berlin

She stands back to back with a corpse, ugly and decaying, holding a scroll and accompanied by a huntsman and two dogs.

Memento Mori Sideview (c. 1520) by Ascribed to Chicart BaillyBode-Museum, Staatliche Museen zu Berlin

So there's death on one side, life on the other. Eternally opposed. The light side vs the dark side.

Memento Mori Front (c. 1520) by Ascribed to Chicart BaillyBode-Museum, Staatliche Museen zu Berlin

The young woman's pose shows a familiar attitude: she knows death is inevitable but she doesn’t care. She has a smile on her face ...

... and holds life in her hands – a blooming rose in her left, her middle finger pointing to her groin, the source of all human life.

And of course there’s always the modern interpretation of holding up a middle finger to death. #YOLO. Live it up!

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Credits: Story

#HistoryOfUs series

Staatliche Museen zu Berlin – Preußischer Kulturbesitz

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