Thursday, January 26, 2012

Skeleton Time

This fascinating gravestone was on the wall in a church in Rome. I couldn't remember where I took the photo - the perils of not taking an establishing shot!  But I have tracked it down. It is the San Lorenzo in Damaso Church in the Piazza della Cancelleria. I know because it's just after the shots I took in the Leonardo Exhibition in a palace that surrounds the church. Then a bit of detective work revealed that it is a work by none other than Gian Lorenzo Bernini. This is not so much a representation of of death, but the skeleton of a dead person. It is perhaps the representation of the state of being dead. Memento mori, remember that you will die, is something we should all bear in mind. Our time is limited and we should use it well. The Scots have a saying, "we're a long time dead." Our time alive is short, in comparison to the other state. This type of funerary monument was for the rich, who could afford a sculptor and a grave within the church itself. Richer folks commissioned a whole chapel! But it did provide work for sculptors who were otherwise unemployed. The skeleton is not very scary is it? And it's certainly not the devil. In Petronius' Satyricon, a silver skeleton moves around a banquet, serving to remind us of the brevity of life. Its message appears to be "enjoy life while you can." So we should appreciate the fleeting moment and try to live in the "now".