Tag Archives: Renaissance Art

Front Cover: Great Book Jackets and Cover Design by Alan Power

26/8 –  27/8/12: Alan Power presents Artistic Illustrations of the Skull

The other day I received several images via email of an art book that contained illustrative representations of the skull. The Images were extracted from a book also known as “Front Cover: Great Book Jackets and Cover Design” by Alan Power. Some of the images do appear very art deco and the book may demonstrate the presence of the skull in contemporary art and popular culture.

Some of the works appear similar to advertisements or posters through the juxtaposition between image and text. Some of the images may relate to European Renaissance Art especially the ‘Moment Mori’ that reminded the viewer of their own existence. There are at least two works in particular that features a composition between the skull or the skeleton and the hour glass that is also symbolic of the Momento Mori.

William Sroyan, Inhale and Exhale, 1936

Robert Titler argues that the Momento Mori invited the spectator to consider the border between life and death. The Momento Mori confronted one with their own mortality and realisation that time is slowly running out. Titler quotes “Many other portraits of the era employ clocks, hourglass, wilted or withered foliage, skulls and even full skeletons to convey the same message”. Can the skull remind the living of their own mortality or existence?

In a way yes the skull may remind one of the person’s life or existence, on the other hand the appropriation of the skull may become another representation that no longer resonates a connection with death. One may say that an image all depends on the eye of the beholder.

Tittler, Robert, Portraits, Painters, and Publics in Provincial England, 1540-1640 (New York: Oxford University Press,2012) p.135

Istvan Orosz

27/7/12 – Hungarian Artist, Istvan Orosz skull features a close resemblance to Holbein’s Ambassadors?

A friend had sent me a link to her blog via skype, which features the works of Istvan Orosz who explores the iconic imagery of the skull. According to Gallery Diabolous, Istvan Orosz is a Hungarian artist who graduated as a designer in the 1970’s.

Istvan’s skulls feature similarities to European Renaissance art, which used the skull as a frightening representation of death. Istvan’s work also features a close resemblance to Hans Holbein’s illustration, The Ambassadors.

Antoni Cadafalch argues that Hans Holbein was an artist within 15th century who introduced a series also known as the “Dance of Death”, which featured a dancing skeleton terrorising or mocking other living beings, which also projected a morbid and a sinister depiction of death. (Cadafalch, 2011 p.3-15)

In comparison, John Limon explains that Holbein’s, Ambassadors features certain elements, which suggest or refer to the image of the skull. The image features two men on each side of the frame, which are composed with a table that is covered with different objects or instruments. The actual image of the skull is not clear or direct to the viewer from a first glance, although when the viewer begins to perceive the image from another angle, the skull is slightly noticeable. (Limon, 2012 p.114)

Hans Holbein, Ambassadors (1948 – 1953) Skull is sometimes noticeable from different angles or perspectives (Limon, 2012 p. 114)

One could argue that Istvan’s works features a similar style to Holbein’s Ambassadors, which encourages the viewer to perceive the work from various angles or positions in order to recognise the shape of the skull. Istvan’s work features a subtle interpretation of a skull, which is defined through the human form that is positioned in different angles.

The skull is clearly identifiable, although it does take several times to recognise the skull through the composition between everyday objects and the human body. Istvan may have been influenced by Holbein’s work, which also uses the human form as a way to suggest or relate to the image of the skull.

Istvan’s work relates to the image of the skull, although Holbein’s Ambassadors encourages the viewer to search for the skull, which is unrecognisable at a first glance. Istvan’s work is visually compelling and the use of the human body resonates the border between life and death through the shape of the skull.

The images of Istvan’s work have been sourced from Mountboard, which is a blog that features contemporary art and design. The blog is definitely worth checking out!  Mountboard, http://mountboard.tumblr.com/post/28092690985/ruineshumaines-renown-artist-istvan-orosz-has



Gallery Diabolus, “CV, Istvan Orosz”, Gallery Diabolus, http://www.gallerydiabolus.com/gallery/artist.php?id=utisz&page=cv (Accessed 27/7/12)

Limon, John, Death’s Following: Mediocrity, Dirtiness, Adulthood & Literature (USA: Fordham University press, 2012) p. 114

Cadafalch, Antoni. The Day of the Dead: El Dia De Los Muertos.  London: Koreno Books, 2011 p. 5 – 17

Death and the Maiden

Hans Baldburg Grien: Death and the Maiden, 1518 – 1520

31/5/12 – Death and the Maiden in Renaissance Art

A couple of days ago, I posted a couple of images from artist’s Laurie Lipton and Edward Wilcox who used Death and the Maiden as the title for their artwork. I received feedback for my blog yesterday after another presentation and someone had mentioned that the Death and the Maiden originates from Renaissance art.

I decided to undertake further research into this particular subject and Rudolph Binion argues that artist Hans Baldburg painted Death and the Maiden during the early 1500’s, which also originates from the ‘Dance of Death’.

According to Binion, the Renaissance Reformation introduced the Death and the Maiden to the public sphere. These particular paintings featured death holding or touching a woman in a suggestive and sexual manner.

In comparison Enrico De Pascale  claims that “The origin of the theme lies in Greek Mythology, in the abduction of Persephone by Hades, king of the Underworld who epitomised the eternal conflict between Eros and Thantos, between love (life) and death” (E.D. Pascale, 2007 p.237)

Pascale also recites an ancient myth in relation to Hedes and the Underworld, who attempted to kidnap a young girl for her hand in marriage. Pascale also refers to other European mythologies that associated life and death with the four different seasons of the year, which were introduced through the Death of the Maiden.

Hans Baldburg Grien: Death and the Maiden 1517

Pascale explains that “The Gracco – Roman Myth, a metaphor for the alternating seasons of death (fall and winter) and of life (spring and summer), was revived in the Middle ages in the iconography of the Death of the Maiden” (E.D.Pascale, 2007 p.239)

Parhaps the juxtaposition between sex and death becomes a reminder of mortality. One could argue that the contemporary culture continually reproduce images or representations depicting sex and death, which may question whether society have been interested in these two particular subjects since the Renaissance period. Will society always have an interest in sex and death? Is the Death and the Maiden or the Dance of Death revived through the contemporary culture?

One could also argue that the Death and the Maiden has influenced contemporary horror films, which usually depict women being terrorised by grotesque characters who impose death or violence.

Danny Draven also highlights an interview with Stuart Gordon who believes that ‘sex and death’ compliment one another. Stuart also emphasises the villain holding or carrying the woman although her wellbeing remains ambiguous.

Binion argues that the Death and the Maiden features a close connection with the Protestant Reformation. Kim . W. Woods argues that the Protestant Reformation emerged within the 1500’s, which abandoned Catholic rituals and believes. This particular movement was supported by Martin Luther King, who questioned  practises from the Catholic Church who forgave certain sins or transgressions.

Pascale, Enrico De. Death and Resurrection in Art.  Italy: Mondadori Electra Publishing, 2007. p.239

Binion, Rudolph. Love Beyond Death: The Anatomy of a Myth in the Arts.  New York University: New York, 1993. p.73

Kim Woods, Carol M. Richardson, Angeliki Lymberopoulou. Viewing Renaissance Art, Volume 3.  London: Yale University Press, 2007. p.5-75

Draven, Danny. The Filmmaker’s Book of the Dead: How to Make Your Own Heart-Racing Horror Movie.  Oxford: Elesevier Inc, 2010. p.118

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