A Large Early 20thC Italian Oil on Canvas Memento Mori Painting of a Skeleton

Origin: Italian
Period: Early 20thC
Provenance: Unknown
Date: c.1900-30
Height: 25.25”
Width: 54.25”
Depth: 0.5”

The dramatic and large oil on canvas painting depicting a full skeleton resting upon a monument, holding an hourglass and scythe, painted in profile to a slate ground, and mounted in a walnut frame the whole being glazed and surviving from the first quarter of twentieth century Italy.

The painting has been conserved well in the frame, there is wear to the whole as photographed making it very decorative. There is a small area of loss to the upper section as photographed.

This picture was painted to remind the viewer of their mortality and of the brevity and fragility of human life in the face of God and nature. Symbolic of the transience of all human existence, the image of the skull and or skeleton has been used by philosophers and theologians, artists and sculptors, writers and poets for centuries to provoke meditative thought on the indiscriminate nature of death.

The scythe and the hourglass, as we see here, both represent the unstoppable forward movement of time, and the shadow of death that follows. Father Time was often used allegorically to mock the pettiness of humankind and our obsession with the ephemeral. As the theory went, Kronos (who proceeded Father Time) represented the destructive ravages of time which consumed all things, a concept that was definitely illustrated when the Titan king devoured the Olympian gods — the past consuming the future, the older generation suppressing the next generation. During the Renaissance, the identification of Cronus and Chronos gave rise to "Father Time" wielding the harvesting scythe.

A painting that makes an instant impact, due to the combination of its size, manner of execution, and subject matter.