I’ll take it easy. Lets talk about something very common.
So, you see skulls everywhere. EVERYWHERE.
Skulls have been a popular symbol throughout human history. One could see the skull symbol in a Baroque painting or maybe even on someone’s t-shirt.
So what does the skull mean and why are people so fascinated with the symbol?
The symbol of the skull serves as a reflection of a once living person, the physical form of ones living head. As both Vanitas symbols and memento mori the symbol of the skull is primarily linked to death. Across all cultures and throughout time, the skull has been universally recognized as such.
The earliest use of skulls in an artistic sense didn’t occur until around 7000 B.C in Jericho (now known as Palestine). Skulls were seen in many various forms of art in the centuries leading up to the 1600s, which is when still-life paintings were increasing in popularity. People began to place objects with deeper meaning in their pictures, and the skull was one of the most popular. Artists would find reasons to place skulls in their work, giving the painting a deeper meaning. They were often found in religious paintings that had been commissioned for churches and private homes, as a way to remind people of their mortality, and to seize the day. However, they also appeared in portraits, such as the “Portrait of a Man Holding a Skull”, by Frans Hals (1626).
In some cases, the reason for the skulls is still unclear. One famous example is in Hans Holbein the Younger’s “The Ambassadors” (1533)
which featured an anamorphic skull taking up a large portion of the painting’s foreground. It was clearly either Vanitas or memento mori, but it is unclear why it was given such prominence in the painting. To this day, skulls are still a widely used symbol across various forms of art.
One could even seek the symbol in a more modern paintings as well. One example is in Paul Cezanne’s “Still-life with a Skull”
which is just one of many paintings featuring skulls in the 18-1900s. More recently, one can see skulls in modern art as well, such as in Andy Warhol’s “Skulls” (1976).
Skulls can be seen almost anywhere in modern media, in movies, paintings, photography, and more, as a symbol of death and foreboding.
So there it is. The skull. It is just a tiny bit crazy to think that in every culture, no matter where you are, this symbol means one thing. And everyone knows it.
I guess us human beings are just a bit morbid throughout history.
Hope you enjoyed the post! next one coming soon and check out my new photo collection on the blog!
I am new at this, lets start from there. If we’re being totally honest, this is my first post. I have the tiniest idea of what I am doing. The only knowledge I am proud to have is from the lifetime of interest in art and the (way too much) time I spent with my nose buried in art history books. But enough about me lets go straight to the actual propose of this blog.
There are many famous art works in the world. The first art works dating back to the time when people still lived in the cave. Many paintings include various objects, which at first glance have nothing to do with the actual painting, but on the contrary, it actually has and adds more meaning to the painting. The two types I am going to focus on are the Vanitas symbol and the memento mori.
Vanitas (Latin for “emptiness”) are symbols that have deeper meanings, and are often found in still life paintings that were prominent in Northern Europe from the 15th to 17th century. Still life became bigger in the Netherlands, but some German and French painters also participated in this style. Their purpose was to show that many object in a given painting had deeper meaning, reminding them of the transience of life, futility of pleasure, or the guarantee of death, among other themes. These symbols could come in many forms, often morbid or explicit. For example, common items included skulls, rotten fruits, seashells, dying flowers, or fuming candles.
Memento mori (Latin for “memento of death”) were artistic and symbolic reminders of death, found in various forms of art dating as far back as the ancient Roman Empire. There is some overlap between Memento mori and Vanitas, however, not all Vanitas are memento mori, and vice versa. Memento mori can be found everywhere, across many different art mediums, such as paintings, photographs, jewelry, sculptures, and gravestones. They can also be found in many churches, even to this day. Example symbols include skulls, dead flowers, clocks, angels, and candles. Despite the morbid meaning on the surface of memento mori, there are positive intentions, encouraging one to seize the day (a theme of carpe diem).
Scholars are yet to totally figure out what each symbols mean and many debates are being held even to this day. So please put in mind that these are just the wide spread opinions by VERY smart people. If this blog tickles ones interest in any way, it will make one very happy Ms.Take. next post coming soon!