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Final Farewell: The Culture of Death and the Afterlife

Memento Mori

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Mors (Death) from the series Six Triumphs of Petrarch

Mors (Death)Philip Galle, a member of a Flemish family of artists, was an engraver, publisher, and print dealer. Galle founded a print shop in Antwerp that was an important center for engraving during the sixteenth and early seventeenth centuries. Printmaking workshops frequently produced and sold engravings made after original paintings or other designs by renowned artists.

Philip Galle
(Dutch, 1537–1612)
after Maerten van Heemskerk
Dutch (1498–1574)
Mors (Death) from the series Six Triumphs of Petrarch

Mors comes from Six Triumphs of Petrarch, which were illustrations for poems by the Italian Renaissance author Francesco Petrarch (1304–1374), who survived the Black Plague of the mid-fourteenth century. His six triumphs are Love, Chastity, Death, Fame, Time, and Eternity. Here, an allegorical figure of Death, the muscular skeleton in the upper right, rides a chariot and scythes the living who are in his path. The representation implies that Death does not discriminate. Dead bodies, young and old alike, lie under the chariot; a crown, papal hat and helmet symbolize that even important members of society cannot escape Death. A popular Netherlandish proverb reads, “Weapons count for naught when death assails.” Perhaps this saying also inspired the creators of this image.

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