Death is an inevitable fact of life. Throughout the centuries, humanity has sought to understand this sobering thought through art and ritual. The theme of memento mori informs medieval Danse Macabre, the Tibetan Book of the Dead, Renaissance paintings of dissected corpses and “anatomical Eves,” Gothic literature, funeral effigies, Halloween, and paintings of the Last Judgment. Deceased ancestors are celebrated in the Mexican Day of the Dead, while the ancient Egyptians mummified their dead to secure their afterlife. A volume of unprecedented breadth and sinister beauty, Death: A Graveside Companion examines a staggering range of cultural attitudes toward death. The book is organized into themed chapters: The Art of Dying, Examining the Dead, Memorializing the Dead, The Personification of Death, Symbolizing Death, Death as Amusement, and The Dead After Life. Each chapter begins with thought-provoking articles by curators, academics, and journalists followed by gallery spreads presenting a breathtaking variety of death-related imagery and artifacts. From skulls to the dance of death, statuettes to ex libris, memento mori to memorabilia, the majority of the images are of artifacts in the astonishing collection of Richard Harris and range from 2000 BCE to the present day, running the gamut of both high and popular culture. Table of Contents 1. The Art of Dying 2. Examining the Dead 3. Memorializing the Dead 4. The Personification of Death 5. Symbolizing Death 6. Death as Amusement 7. The Dead After Life
Essays: Death in Ancient and Present-Day Mexico, Eva Aridjis,The Power of Hair as Human Relic in Mourning Jewelry - Karen Bachmann, Medusa and the Power of the Severed Head, Laetitia Barbier, Anatomical Expressionism, Eleanor Crook, Poe and the Pathological Sublime, Mark Dery, Eros and Thanatos, Lisa Downing, Death-Themed Amusements, Joanna Ebenstein, The Nutshell Studies of Unexplained Death, Bruce Goldfarb, Theatre, Death and the Grand Guignol, Mel Gordon, Holy Spiritualism, Elizabeth Harper, Playing dead – A Gruesome Form of Amusement, Mervyn Heard, The Anatomy of Holy Transformation, Liselotte Hermes da Fonseca, Collecting Death, Evan Michelson, Art and Afterlife: Ethel le Rossignol and Georgiana Houghton, Mark Pilkington, The Dance of Death, Kevin Pyle, Art, Science and the Changing Conventions of Anatomical Representation, Michael Sappol, Spiritualism and Photography, Shannon Taggart, Playing with Dead Faces, John Troyer, Anatomy Embellished in the Cabinet of Frederik Ruysch, Bert van de Roemer
An unusual coffee-table book…You may be surprised by how much fun it is to pore through the book's lavish artwork of skulls, cadavers and fanciful imaginings of the afterlife. The writings cover spiritual and symbolic aspects of death [and] some essays delve into scientific history, such as miniature crime scenes used in forensic science and the history of cadavers in the study of anatomy.
— Science News
Joanna Ebenstein is the author of The Anatomical Venus and cofounder of the Morbid Anatomy Museum in Brooklyn, New York.
Will Self is the acclaimed author of several novels, short story collections, and novellas. His books include Umbrella, Great Apes, and Phone.