Fire-gilded bronze skull

Make an inquiry
Price on request

Global shipping available

Southern Netherlands
Early 17th century
Fire-gilded bronze
3.6 cm
3.6 cm
4.6 cm

Questions about this object?

Please use one of the contact options below:


This fire-gilded bronze skull was made in the Southern Netherlands at the beginning of the 17th century. The miniature skull, without the lower jaw, is executed in detail. On the skull, the seams between the skull plates are visible. The skull serves as a representation of the Latin motto 'memento mori': remember to die. It reminds people of their own mortality and coincides with the vanitas motif in art that focuses on the emptiness, temporariness and fleetingness of life. One of the most impressive expressions of the memento mori is the skull, the personification of death. It is both a warning and an object that calls for contemplation. This skull was probably intended for private use, like many vanitas objects.

The bronze skull is fire gilded. Gold amalgam, a solution of fine gold powder in mercury, was applied to the object, after which it was heated. This caused the mercury to evaporate and the gold to settle on the bronze. This method of gilding was very dangerous; mercury vapour is a strong poison and cost many craftsmen their health. In 1830 the use of this method was banned.   


Site by Artimin