Numerous images and objects functioned as memento mori (reminders of death), asking those who wore and looked at them to pause in the middle of their busy lives and prepare for their inevitable ends. The two elaborate examples below speak to the irony at the heart of this tradition: objects that were supposed to turn the viewer’s thoughts away from worldly things were frequently richly jewelled, delicately crafted, and expensive.
Memento Mori ring, c. 1620-1650. Rijksmuseum. Public domain.
Skeleton in coffin pendant, Europe, 1701-1900, by Science Museum, London. Credit: Science Museum, London. CC BY