Death: From Ancient Times to Modern Times -Shawn Rush

My project plans to explore how human beings have explored and understood death going back from ancient time to modern times.  I will attempt to explore how humans have dealt with and explored their understanding of the concept of death throughout time. 

The Coffin of Sesekh-nofru shows some of the earliest representations of death in art. The coffin itself appears to be about the size of the average human, although it is possibly slightly larger. The coffin itself has the likeness of the deceased on the outside, in fact the whole coffin is human shaped. The subject has his arms cross as has been seen in several mummies and coffins before. Below the arms are several scenes of the person’s life and what will happen to them in the afterlife. This is one of the earliest depictions of human beliefs of death and the afterlife.
Drawings for Dante’s Divine Comedy is a painting that shows on of the scenes from Dante’s book the Divine Comedy. The scene shows what appear to be several visitors who have descended to hell. There they see the fate of several sinners as they receive their eternal punishment. There are two rings the that paintings show the sinners receiving punishment. The upper section has demons physically attacking and torturing their victims. The lover ring shows several victims boiling and screaming. This painting is another religious example of the punishments that one would receive after death if they do not follow the will of God. This painting and the story that accompanies it is to serve as a warning to all who view it.
Denise Poncher before a Vision of Death shows a young girl before a large imposing figure. The large figure is the embodiment of death. This painting was made in the 1500s, a time when death could come for you at any moment. The figure is mostly skeleton in form and carries several large scythes. This painting was made during the time of rampant disease. Not long before this all of Europe was afflicted by the plague. Death was common and people thought about it every day. This painting is an embodiment of that fear.
Lovers Surprised by Death shows two lovers who were most like alone and committing the sin of premarital sex accosted by a winged figure. I imagine that the figure represents the angel of death sent down by God to punish these lovers for committing a very serious sin. As punishment for this the angel appears to be taking their lives forcefully. The figure has the male lover pinned to the ground and the female lover is screaming and attempting to get away. I fear that it will be of no use, but the point is made clear to the viewers of the time. The message here is that there are certain actions are punishable by death from God himself, premarital sex is one of them.
Altarpiece of the Passion of Christ is a series of paintings that show the last moments of Jesus. These paintings would most certainly be viewed in a church, probably a catholic one. The panels illustrated the night of the last supper, Jesus’s death, burial, and resurrection in a series of painted panels. These paintings are done in detail to many of the features of Jesus and many of the other disciples, followers, and persecutors of Jesus. The purpose of these paintings is to remind the people of the faith of how this death is important. The death of Jesus has been played up here to remind the followers why they are here and why they need to follow the church.
Gustavo Adolfo Bécquer on his Death Bed shows the subject lying on his bed in a close up. we can only see from the chest up. The subject is only lit from the front leaving the background to fade away to darkness. We can see some of the details of the subject’s face but not many as the lighting does not allow us to see much. This painting allows the viewer to see and remember the dead as they were in their last moments. This, I believe, is intended to give the viewer some kind of comfort as they see the person in the last moments of their life.
Death in the Sickroom is a painting that shows several subjects in a room clearly mourning the death of a loved one. While it is not certain who the dead person is it is clear that they all cared for this person. All of the subjects in the painting are not clearly visible, meaning that it looks as if the artist has intentionally made the subjects in a literally out of focus manner. The young girl who is the most front and center subject has her face down and away from the viewer. This painting represents a new form of grieving that appeared in the Victorian age, the wake. Before this it would be common for people to gather around the dead person themselves to say goodbye. Since there is no body represented here in the picture we can say that it is not there.
This is the death mask of Carl Maria von Weber. The mask is against a black background which stands in stark contrast of the ivory white color the mask. The mask shows many of the details of the subject’s face. We can see the details of the hair, nose, and eyes. While the piece was created in 1977, the use of the death mask dates back much further in time than that. It was quite common for royalty and religious officials to have a death mask created. I believe that this is the artist’s way of showing how modern society has changed in its viewing death. Bringing back an old tradition and showing it in a new light.
This photo shows .303 inch Vickers machine gun. This artifact is from the World War I era. The artwork depicts the gun in a position, as I believe, it would have been used in. The gun has been placed in front of a white sheet, which provides a contrast to illuminate the details of the gun. The gun appears to be mostly made of bronze and a painted steel. The unit shows visible sign of wear and use. The symbolism of the silenced gun is quite obvious, but I think it is even greater here because of the nature of the gun. The machine gun is the beginning of the mass industrialisation of war and death. The machine gun is completely efficient and deadly and easy to use. It is death on an industrial level.
This art piece shows the remains of a building in Hiroshima. The photo is framed in such a way that the building is set very high in the frame. As our eye moves from the bottom to the top of the photo the building becomes more and more destroyed until we come to the top of the building, which is topped by the remnants of a dome. The only thing that we can see left of the dome is the metal structure of the building. This piece shows the viewer the destructive force of war. The remnants reminds us how fragile we are and how quickly war and anger can lead to death and destruction.
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