A Morbid Facination

For a very long time, death has been the central focus for many pieces of art, this gallery focuses on one of the most well known symbols used to convey the meaning of death, the skull, and it's uses as a morbid sign.

This is a wood carving done of a simple subject matter. Just like the name suggests, it is a skull within a frame, using the lmage of the frame and the central placement of the skull, as well as shading, to bring the skull forward. All attention is brought to this skull in a reminder of mortality.
This time a sketch, much like the last one. The center framing brings all attention to the most important object, the skull, letting others know this is a piece about death. The less important objects are placed to the sides, letting us see them as what they mean within the context of mortality. A wither flower, and a small clock, both common images together with skulls.
As an example of the continued use of clocks and skulls together. Here is a clock made in the image of a skull. It's placed on a base that has a purpose of both holding the clock, and framing the skull. The skull is a bright golden color, once again bringing someone's attention to the shape and idea of a skull, before letting them see the clock. Presenting the idea of time within the context of mortality
The symbolism of the skull goes past European art. This Chinese painting depicts a skull in a withered grass field with a flower. The skull is placed in the upper right of the painting unlike the previous pieces where it was centered. But the importance is no less in this work. Traditionally Chinese is written top to bottom, right to left. Viewers of this piece would see the skull before the flower, putting the flower in the context of withering or dying beauty. As it is the only one left in the field.
While this is two images, the i'll be talking about is on the right, and like Chinese, Japanese is traditionally read right to left, so it would be the first image taken in. This work is in deep contrast with the other works so far. Colors are bright and the image is far more stylized. The skull also shared the framing with the warrior, making one no more important than the other. This still gives the implication that this warrior is not a kind one, his pale colors scheme and position above the skull. The image still carries the idea of death, or a bad omen.
Taking it back to western art, we have this still life. Again the skull in only just off-center frame, still a major object, but this time surrounded by much more, clutter. That's what it's meant to be as well, clutter, a mess of things at odd angles that a person makes their life out of. This is a much more cynical look at the theme of "life is fleeting", as evidenced by it being associate with the word Vanitas, literally the Latin word for Vanity.
So we have another work depicting a skull in the center of the image, this time punctuated by text within the work, saying in Latin, that this is what a man is. With the lack of anything else within the work, the intent would seem to be that a man is nothing more than what he will end up as in the end. Sharing the idea from the previous work that the objects in life mean nothing in death.
This painting shifts gears a bit. A painting of Mary Magdalene, known as the prostitute taken in by Jesus, does not prominently feature a skull, but does still include one as an object she is holding. This is important, as it puts the skull into context as to what Mary is contemplating. Combined with the scripture close by in the frame, it can be said that the fleeting nature of life is a part of her contemplation.
A curious work as it also depicts Mary Magdelene in a state of thought. While once again she is given the most space and is the subject of the work, religious imagery and the appearance of a skull are once again present, giving the same idea that she is contemplating life and eventual death. Very similar works by different artists decades apart.
This painting, is of two men enjoying themselves while a skeleton creeps over one of them, holding an hour glass and looking intently. While an entire skeleton, the skull is still present and through context and the colors shown on it, it's a foreboding figure in an otherwise happy scene. It shares ideas with the other works in the gallery, that objects and pleasures are fleeting things while death is always there, and the eventual end. IT just chooses to present this idea in a comparatively lighthearted manner
Credits: All media
This user gallery has been created by an independent third party and may not always represent the views of the institutions, listed below, who have supplied the content.
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