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A weathered, aged Italian Carved Wooden Skull Memento Mori with noticeable pitting and discoloration sits on a plain white background. Missing several teeth and having a rough texture, it exudes an antique charm, giving it both an ancient and rustic appearance. Nicholas Wells Antiques

Memento Mori

This Italian 17th-century carved wooden sculpture of a skull is a remarkable example of memento mori, an artistic theme deeply rooted in European history, particularly during the Renaissance and beyond. Memento mori, which translates to “remember that you must die,” is a symbolic reminder of the inevitability of death and the transient nature of human life. This philosophy is more than a mere artistic movement; it’s a reflection of a shared human experience across time, emphasizing the fleetingness of earthly pleasures and achievements.

In the context of European art, the memento mori motif often incorporated skulls, sometimes accompanied by bones, hourglasses, wilting flowers, and other symbols signifying the impermanence of life. This theme was not confined to one genre but appeared across various artistic forms, including sculptures like the one you mentioned, paintings, and even in book illustrations.

During the Renaissance, memento mori art gained prominence as artists like Albrecht Dürer incorporated these themes into their works, reflecting a societal fascination with death amidst frequent epidemics. This trend was also observed in the works of other artists such as Lucas van Leyden, Joos van Cleve, and Marinus van Reymerswaele. The Dance of Death, a sub-genre of memento mori art, emerged during this period, illustrating the universality of death through depictions of skeletons or the dead in various life scenarios.

In the context of the tea caddy’s original setting, such an object might have been found in a studiolo or kunstkammer (cabinet of curiosities), which were collections of artworks, natural wonders, and other intriguing objects owned by the affluent and learned. These spaces served not only as showcases of personal wealth and knowledge but also as reflections on the world’s complexity and the human condition, often featuring memento mori pieces to remind viewers of life’s transience and the importance of moral reflection.

This Italian carved skull, with its detailed craftsmanship and retention of the original paint, serves as a poignant and artistic representation of these themes, embodying the era’s fascination with life, death, and the afterlife.

Nicholas Wells Antiques advisors are available to answer all your questions. 

Please email us or call +44 (0)207 6920 897
A weathered, aged Italian Carved Wooden Skull Memento Mori with noticeable pitting and discoloration sits on a plain white background. Missing several teeth and having a rough texture, it exudes an antique charm, giving it both an ancient and rustic appearance. Nicholas Wells Antiques

Italian Carved Wooden Skull Memento Mori

Stock Number: 13788

Italian 17th-century carved wooden sculpture of a Memento Mori skull finished to incredible detail and retaining the original paint surface.
Approximate Dimensions
  • Height: 17.5 cm (7 inches)
  • Width: 14.5 cm (5.7 inches)
  • Depth: 20 cm (8 inches)

£8,000

This unique piece is subject to availability.
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Dimensions

Approximate Dimensions

  • Height: 17.5 cm (7 inches)
  • Width: 14.5 cm (5.7 inches)
  • Depth: 20 cm (8 inches)

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Our description of any item on the website, any condition report and any other statement made by us (whether orally or in writing) about any item, including about its nature or condition, artist, period, materials, approximate dimensions, or provenance are our opinion and not to be relied upon as a statement of fact.

Returns

In the UK Online sales of this kind are known as ‘distance selling’. We offer a refund to customers if you’ve told us within 3 days of receiving the goods that you want to cancel. You have another 14 days to return the goods once you’ve told us of your intention. A refund will be issued within 14 days of receiving the goods back in the same condition. Return shipping should be the same level as received with insurance, we recommend using the same shipper at your cost. If needed we will help organise suitable shipping.

We will refund the purchase price, excluding delivery costs and taxes, within 14 days of the safe receipt of items in the same condition as supplied. The liability for any damage incurred during transit will remain with the sender. We recommend that adequate insurance is placed on items when returning them to us.

All returns must be communicated prior to an item being sent back.

We extend these Return terms to our international clients.

Delivery Options

We will ship worldwide however the costs vary between countries so please email us for a quote. Depending on the item we will recommend the most suitable method.

Our preferred international shipping methods include fine art shippers Gander and White, Art Logistics, Cadogan Tate for items over £5,000. For Fedex, DHL or UPS shipments we expertly pack in-house in wooden crates or heavy duty cardboard – Suitable for most items under £5000. If you have your own shippers we are very happy to coordinate with them.

INSURANCE

All items are sent fully insured at the invoice value.

LOCAL TAXES

All items are inclusive of all local taxes but may be subject to additional charges for importation and taxes local to the client. Antiques are zero-rated to the USA, all items ship with the correct paperwork. While we are not liable for these additional charges we do encourage clients to research these prior to purchasing items from us. We will make a full value disclosure, as required by the insurance, on all items sent overseas. This is required to ensure proper insurance cover in sending valuable items.

EXPORT LICENCES & CITES

Where required we will oversee the completion of all export licenses for high-value items. We will also arrange for CITES paperwork for materials of endangered species including ivory, tortoiseshell, stuffed birds etc.

DELIVERY TIMES

This is dependent on the size and value of the object, all items are checked over and polished before shipping and will generally have wooden crates made. This all takes time so expect 10 – 20 working days for delivery unless the item is small in which case 2-3 days from order.

CUSTOMS

Every effort is made to make Customs Clearance as quick as possible, items held in customs are out of our control. They may require documents / ID to release the goods, please keep this in mind, it is just procedure.

INSURANCE VALUATION

All our antiques now also come with an invoice as a Valuation Certificate for insurance purposes.