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Death

  • Object:

    Statuette

  • Place of origin:

    Bavaria (made)

  • Date:

    ca. 1670 (made)

  • Artist/Maker:

    Unknown

  • Materials and Techniques:

    Limewood

  • Museum number:

    299-1870

  • Gallery location:

    Sculpture, Room 111, The Gilbert Bayes Gallery, case 1

This is a limewood sculpture, representing Death, made in Bavaria in about 1670. This skeleton-figure, a remembrance of death (memento mori) was a subject frequently represented in small-scale sculptures, which were displayed in cabinets of curiosities from the sixteenth century onward. The virtuoso carving of the wood was also characteristic of such pieces.

The techniques used in carving in wood and stone were fundamentally the same. First the sculptor carved the rough shape of the piece, a process known as 'blocking out'. Then, he would work the surface with knives or chisels and abrasives. The figure was generally held horizontally at a workbench and attached to cylindrical shafts, so the sculptor could turn the piece as he carved. Small-scale pieces were generally carved at a workbench.

Before the 15th century people would have considered an unpainted sculpture to be unfinished. But around 1460 wood-carvers in northern Europe began to leave their work deliberately undecorated, as with the skilfully carved figure here. It is not certain why they did this.

Physical description

Limewood statuette of a skeleton-figure holding a bow and arrows, representing Death.

Place of Origin

Bavaria (made)

Date

ca. 1670 (made)

Artist/maker

Unknown

Materials and Techniques

Limewood

Dimensions

Height: 27.94 cm without base

Object history note

Bought in 1870.

Historical context note

This skeleton-figure, a remembrance of death (memento mori) was a subject frequently represented in small-scale sculptures, which were displayed in cabinets of curiosities from the sixteenth century onward. The virtuoso carving of the wood was also characteristic of such pieces.

Descriptive line

Statuette, limewood, of Death, German (Bavarian), ca. 1670

Bibliographic References (Citation, Note/Abstract, NAL no)

List of Objects in the Art Division, South Kensington, Acquired During the Year 1870, Arranged According to the Dates of Acquisition. London: Printed by George E. Eyre and William Spottiswoode for H.M.S.O., p. 28
Müller, C. Ein Problem deutscher Kleinplastik des 16. Jahrhunderts. Zeitschrift des Deutschen Vereins für Kunstwissenschaft. 10, 1943, p. 259

Materials

Limewood

Techniques

Carving

Subjects depicted

Arrows; Death; Memento Mori; Mortality; Skeleton; Bows (weapons)

Categories

Death; Sculpture

Collection

Sculpture Collection

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