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27 décembre 2019

Neapolitan school, 17th century, A pair of  memento mori  with skulls and crossbones

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Lot 5. Neapolitan school, 17th century, A pair of  memento mori  with skulls and crossbones, oil on canvas, each: 16⅛ by 19 in .; 41.1 by 48.4 cm. Estimate: 8,000 - 12,000 USD. Lot sold 100,000 USD© Sotheby's.

ProvenancePrivate collection.

NoteMemento mori means "remember you must die". This theme was popular during the 17th century when it was a common belief that life on earth was merely a preparation for the afterlife. This pair of skulls convey an immediate sense of realism through the artist's mastery of light, which accentuates each distinctive feature of the bones that are strategically placed against a dark background. Similar memento mori , which could have served as inspiration for this pair, appear as details in both Caravaggio's Saint Jerome from 1608 in Saint John's Co-Cathedral and Museum, Valletta 1 and Ribera's Saint Paul the Hermit from 1635-40 in the Museo Nacional del Prado, Madrid. 2 


Caravaggio, Saint Jerome Writing, 1608. Oil on canvas, 117 by 157 cm, Saint John's Co-Cathedral and Museum© STJC

San Pablo ermitaño

José de Ribera, Saint Paul the Hermit. Oil on canvas, 118 x 98 cm© Museo Nacional del Prado, Madrid.

Sotheby's. Fabrizio Moretti x Fabrizio Moretti | In Passing, 18 december 2019