Memento Mori Lilac Wool Hand Knit Jumper
Painted with expressive impasto brushstrokes, a skull shouts into the void and in its shadow lay some plump, purple grapes. The scene is lit by a flickering candle, it creates a strong contrast between light and dark elements and the flame invites us toward illumination. Death is one of the few things that we as humans are guaranteed in life, and this is a reality that unites us all —death is part of the deal of life. In mediaeval times, the theory and practice of reflecting on the transient nature of earthly life was known as “memento mori” a Latin phrase translating to “remember that you must die”. The concept has its roots in the philosophers of classical antiquity and appeared in funerary art and architecture from the mediaeval period onwards. This theory is an important aspect of ascetic disciplines - providing inspiration to turn the attention away from the distractions of earthly concerns and desires; bringing the focus instead to the prospect of the afterlife. The Stoics of classical antiquity were particularly prominent in their use of this discipline, and Seneca’s letters are full of injunctions to meditate on death. The Stoic Epictetus told his students that when kissing their child, brother, or friend, they should remind themselves that they are mortal, curbing their pleasure, as do “those who stand behind men in their triumphs and remind them that they are mortal”. The Stoic, Marcus Aurelius invited the reader in his book of Meditations, to “consider how ephemeral and mean all mortal things are”. Artists have explored the concepts of memento mori in a number of unique ways throughout history, developing a universal language of rich visual symbolism over time. Common elements include skulls, flowers, fruit, or a candle to imply the persistence of time. By creating a dialogue investigating the ephemeral nature of life, the awareness of impermanence heightens appreciation of the present.
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