Memento Mori Pendant3D Model
Unknown maker, Flanders, c.1500
Ivory, 76.2mm high
Medieval Christians’ fear of dying while outside God’s protection (without a priest present to administer the Last Rites) led to an unprecedented boom in the production of objects known as memento mori (reminders of death). Their iconography emphasised the temporary nature of earthly pleasures and cautioned against the pursuit of wealth and physical beauty.
This idea is exemplified in this ivory pendant, which would have dangled from a chain or rosary. On one side, we see a well-dressed young woman in her prime. Yet the Latin inscription around her veiled head, which translates as ‘Alas I must die’, warns of the fate that will eventually befall her (and also the beholder).
On turning the pendant round, we are confronted by the full horror of her fate. Her rotting skeleton is infested with frogs, slugs, worms and salamanders, accompanied by a Latin statement which translates as ‘Here is the end’.
Part of the Wernher Collection at Ranger’s House