One side of this carved ivory head shows a human face crawling with worms; the other side shows a skull crawling with toads after the worms have eaten away at the flesh. Not much is known about this model, but it is thought that it is a memento mori – literally a reminder of death and the shortness of life. The skull was the symbol of death from the 1500s onwards. Previously death was represented as a skeleton accompanied by a living victim. The model was purchased from a private collection in Rome, Italy, in 1932.
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The skeleton of the head of a vertebrate animal, including the brain case, or cranium, and the bones and cartilages of the face and mouth. The skull can be subdivided into two parts: the cranium and the mandible. The human skull is made up from 22 bones.
Glossary: memento mori
Symbols intended to remind the viewer of death. Memento mori are often objects such as skulls or hourglasses, but can also be written inscriptions.