Lot 3008. A carved wood memento mori skull, Germany, 16th century; 20.9 cm, 8 1/4 in. Estimate 120,000 — 180,000 HKD. Lot Sold 150,000 HKD. © Sotheby's 2018.
powerfully carved in the form of a human skull consisting of the cranium and upper jaws, the cadaverous face rendered being stripped of its remaining flesh with several teeth missing, covered with a monochromatic layer of brown paint.
The outcome of Carbon-14 testing is consistent with the dating of this lot.
Provenance: Collection of George Terasaki (1931-2010), New York.
Note: From the sixteenth century, skulls were commonly used as memento mori (‘Remember death’) as they symbolise the transience of human life. They were also known as 'Vanitas' from the reference in the Book of Ecclesiastes (1.2) to "vanity of vanities, all is vanities."
See also a seventeenth-century Southern German boxwood memento mori skeleton offered in this sale, lot 3050.
George Terasaki (1931-2010) was a remarkable art dealer, aesthete and photographer who was also renowned for his collection of artworks and artefacts. His collection included Northwest Coast transformation masks, Eskimo shamanic figures, weavings, pottery and a variety of objects, all illustrating his exceptional eye and fascination with the ancient arts and spiritual worlds.
Sotheby's. Curiosity IV, Hong Kong, 02 Apr 2018, 10:30 AM