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Statue representing Death, Germany, 1750-1870

Death is depicted as a cadaverous figure in this moulded plaster statue. It grasps a reluctant choirmaster by one hand. In the printed German inscription beneath, Death says to the choirmaster, who is referred to as a canon: Mr. Canon, have you lead the singing; many sweet songs in your choir, then notice the sound of the fife. It announces to you the case of death The Canon replies; I sang as a free canon many voices and melodies. Death's fife sounds different; It has terrified me so much The skeletal figure luring mortals, often into the so-called ‘dance of death’ was common imagery throughout medieval Europe. It has its origins in the Black Death and other plague outbreaks of the 1400s and was often revitalised by the return of plague and other infectious disease. The statue is also acts as a ‘memento mori’, literally a reminder of the shortness of life and the inevitability of death. The use of the dance of death and the skeleton to represent mortality was later replaced by the simpler image of the skull.

Object number:

A654861

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Glossary:

Glossary: statue

A sculpture in the round representing human or animal figures or small figure groups; a statuette is a smaller sculpture.

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.

Glossary: mortality

The number of deaths which occur in a given area or period, from a particular disease, etc.; the average frequency of death; death rate.