Memento mori skull and crossbones

Made:
1801-1900 in Europe
Momento mori skull, wood, with crossbones, probably European, 19th century. Full view, graduated grey background. Group shot of various memento mori, showing the variety of origins and different materials in the collection. From left Group shot of various memento mori, showing the variety of origins and different materials in the collection. Clockwise

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Momento mori skull, wood, with crossbones, probably European, 19th century. Full view, graduated grey background.
Science Museum Group Collection
© The Board of Trustees of the Science Museum

Group shot of various memento mori, showing the variety of origins and different materials in the collection. From left
Science Museum Group
© The Board of Trustees of the Science Museum, London.

Group shot of various memento mori, showing the variety of origins and different materials in the collection. Clockwise
Science Museum Group
© The Board of Trustees of the Science Museum, London.

Memento mori skull, wood, with crossbones, (probably) European, 19th century

Memento mori figures were used to remember the dead and remind the living of the fragility of life. In this example, a skull sits on top of crossed bones. This is the traditional symbol of piracy, but the skull and crossbones 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. Memento mori often incorporate other objects which illustrate the same theme, such as sand timers and candles.

Details

Category:
Anatomy & Pathology
Collection:
Sir Henry Wellcome's Museum Collection
Object Number:
A99556
type:
memento mori
taxonomy:
credit:
Hirsbrunner