YOLO

Not now death, I’m painting

Every society has its own relationship with mortality. Some fear it, some worship it, some embrace it. And some are just memento mori, carpe diem or YOLO. Here we celebrate the stories of those who looked mortality in the eye and were inspired to create something magnificent.

Memento Mori at Bode-Museum

One of the most common ways humans cope with mortality is by personifying it. When you give something a form and shape, when you turn death into Death, it becomes tangible. It becomes something you can look in the eye and bravely defy.

Discover the story, here.

Memento Mori, Ascribed to Chicart Bailly, c. 1520 (From the collection of Bode-Museum, Staatliche Museen zu Berlin)

Statue of the goddess Bastet at Neues Museum

If you don’t love cats, you definitely know someone who loves cats: the Internet is awash with felines and they didn’t upload themselves. But even the internet doesn’t love cats as much as the Ancient Egyptians loved cats. They literally worshipped them. And not just for the reasons you might expect.

Discover the story, here.

Statue of the goddess Bastet, Artist unknown, Late Period, c. 600 BCE (From the collection of Neues Museum, Staatliche Museen zu Berlin)

Self-Portrait with Death Playing the Fiddle at Alte Nationalgalerie

Most of us don’t think about death very often, and certainly not our own. Death was the subject matter in numerous works of art by Arnold Böcklin’s, this being one of his most personal and poignant.

Discover the story, here.

Self-Portrait with Death Playing the Fiddle, by Arnold Böcklin, 1872 (From the collection of Alte Nationalgalerie, Staatliche Museen zu Berlin)

The Ishtar Gate at Pergamonmuseum

No matter how wealthy, powerful or important we are, we all ultimately face the same fate. But some people do everything they can to achieve immortality. And if they can’t literally live forever, they build a legacy they hope might stand the test of time; approaching the mighty walls of ancient Babylon along the Processional Way and heading through the Ishtar Gate, you might have thought Nebuchadnezzar II’s legacy was pretty safe. But if it hadn’t been for luck, a persistent German archaeologist and an incredible reconstruction process, nothing would have been left of this magnificent monument but dust.

Discover the story, here.

Ishtar Gate (reconstruction of the outer gate), Unknown, 6th century BCE (From the collection of Pergamonmuseum, Staatliche Museen zu Berlin)

Female Dancer at Bode-Museum

Marble is hard. It is heavy, opaque and solid. And yet, in the hands of Antonio Canova, it can look like the thinnest, shimmering lace. It can capture a strobing snapshot of movement. It can show us a young woman abandoning herself to the feel of music, her body moving in response to something primal and quintessentially human. Antonio Canova’s two great passions were sculpture and dance. Nobody captured movement like him.

Discover the story, here.

Female Dancer, by Antonio Canova, 1809/1812 (From the collection of Bode-Museum, Staatliche Museen zu Berlin)
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