Superb vanity in carved ivory. Greens crawling out of a decaying head (left part). The right part presents the skull of the deceased and a particular attention is given on the delimitations of the various bones of the cranium.
A dramatic illustration of the decomposition process, this “momento mori” is an object of private devotion and was probably used as a rosary bead. In the Christian context, the momento mori has a moralizing purpose: the prospect of death highlights the transience of earthly pleasures and invites one to focus on life after death and the different ways to access it. The symbols of the momento mori can be found in almost all types of art: the trances in funerary art, the dances of death or even small carved vanities like our piece. Particularly popular in Northern Europe from the Renaissance onwards, the tradition continued until the modern era when vanities became small objects of collection and curiosity.

Ivory biface vanity – Germany – 19th century


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