Memento mori ring, Europe, 1801-1900

Made:
1801-1900 in Europe

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Science Museum Group Collection
© The Board of Trustees of the Science Museum

Science Museum Group Collection
© The Board of Trustees of the Science Museum

Science Museum Group Collection
© The Board of Trustees of the Science Museum

Science Museum Group Collection
© The Board of Trustees of the Science Museum

Silver finger ring, a memento mori in the form of a skull and cross bones with snakes intertwined

‘Memento mori’ translates from Latin as ‘Remember you must die’. This metal memento mori ring is in the form of a large skull and crossbones wedged between two snakes. The skull and crossbones is the traditional symbol of piracy, but also had other meanings. It suggested the ultimate triumph of death over life, for example Shakespeare’s famous scene in which Hamlet holds the skull of Yoric. Such rings were reminders of death. They prompted people about the shortness of life and the inevitability of death.

A skull was typically used to represent death from the 1500s onwards. It gradually replaced the common older image of a skeleton leading a living person off to their death.

Details

Category:
Wellcome (general)
Collection:
Sir Henry Wellcome's Museum Collection
Object Number:
A641706
type:
ring - jewelry
taxonomy:
  • furnishing and equipment
  • costume
  • jewellery