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Wax model of a plague scene, Europe, 1657

Plague was a much feared disease with epidemics ravaging Europe, killing almost randomly, as some survived without contracting the disease. The Latin inscription painted on the slab lying next to the rotting corpse reads “Hodie, mihi, cras, tibi”, which translates as “It is my lot today, yours tomorrow”. The sculptor has used wax to mould a scene common to the 1650s – that of people dying from plague. Dried plants and cork bring the scene to life. The sculptor also signed his name, “Lenti, Gregorius” and the date, “1657”. The frame was probably a later addition.

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Glossary: plague

An acute contagious fever with high levels of mortality. Both the 'Black Death' that swept Europe in the 1340s and the Great Plague of London in 1665 are believed to have been bubonic plague.

Glossary: epidemic

A sudden widespread occurance of an infection with high numbers of people affected.

Glossary: plaque

An ornamental tablet of metal, porcelain etc that depicts a person, scene or inscription. Often fixed to a building in commemoration of a person or notable historical occurence.