Memento Mori: Bones and Precious Stones in Art and Craft


Just in case we start getting carry away with living life to the max, artists, designers and craftspeople like to remind us of our own mortality once in a while. Here are six examples from the worlds of Art and Craft design which have use bones – and occasionally gold and precious stones – to make a point.

The concept is call ‘Memento Mori,’ and it took its most extravagant form with Damien Hirst’s controversial 2007 sculpture ‘For the Love of God.’ But Hirst is not the only creative soul with a fondness of juxtaposing death and human vanity.

Damien Hirst – ‘For the Love of God’ (2007)

Costing $14 million to make, Hirst’s diamond-encrust skull sculpture attract plenty of controversy from the start. The artist explain that he was inspire by the Aztecs with their decorative art and attitude towards death.

Face with our own mortality, humans disguise death as something else. What does it do for you? Is it frightening? Does it transcend death or does it mock human attempts to ignore it?

‘For the Love of God,’ a 3d-print platinum cast of a real human skull, is set with 8,601 flawless diamonds. Part of Hirst’s intention is to represent the link between the diamond trade itself and death (the diamonds use in the work are say to be ethically source).

The skull itself was bought in Islington and has been date to the 18th or early 19th Century. It is thought to be from a man around 35 years of age and the original teeth were add to the cast.

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Joris Laarman – ‘The Bonechair’ (2008)

Dutch designer, artist and emerging tech entrepreneur Joris Laarman want to mimic the way in which bones actually grow in his ‘bonechair.’ After all, if bones are design by nature to support our bodies then it makes sense to design furniture in the same way.

Laarman lab works at the intersection of human craftsmanship and computer wizardry and his experimental approach is similar to the process of evolution: plenty of trial and error and in the end an end result that is almost magical. The materials use in these fascinating chairs are marble and porcelain mix with resin.

Laarman bonechair was add as the closing works of the 20th Century collection at Amsterdam’s Rijksmuseum.

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Luke Twigger – ‘Skullmate’ (2010)

The jaunty ceramic skulls of the Skullmate collection even contain their own soft brains in the form of cute little cushions. British designer Luke Twigger brings art, craft and design together in these characterful skulls. He explains that art creates problems and design solves them. Craft, of course, is need to actually make the pieces themselves.

So while you’re contemplating your own mortality you can still organize your home by storing away your bits and bobs. Inspire by the city of Nottingham, Twigger even create a Robin Hood inspire Skullmate with a feather green wool cushion brain.

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Pool – ‘Souviens Toi Que Tu Vas Mourir’ (2011)

The French Pool studio didn’t beat around the bush when they name these chairs. Design around the theme of a skull, these variations on the widespread mono-block chair are simply call, ‘Souviens toi que tu vas mourir,’ which translates as, ‘Remember that you will die.’

As artistic objects, the fiberglass chairs are design to contrast the hard truth of death with the vanity of being seat for comfort.

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Fabio Novembre – ‘Jolly Roger Chairs’ (2013)

Italian architect Fabio Novembre also gets in on the skull chair theme with his rotationally mould polyethylene Jolly Roger chairs. Available in black and white, these imposing chairs evoke the swagger and thirst for conquest as symbolize by the pirate. Novembre even wears a skull ring and like to tell his friends that his grandfather was a pirate!

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Harow – ‘Skull Chair’

Finally, we end with a chair that is pure flamboyance, taking the memento mori theme. And creating something you might fancy a Bond villain sitting in.

Harow’s Skull Chair is comprise of a steel core encase in 24 carat gold. Design to resemble the facets of a diamond. The hardness of the metal is offset by the opulent black velvet seat. At $500,000, this is one of the most expensive modern chairs ever make. But it perfectly sums up the human spirit of choosing to live life to the full in the time we have.

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Author BIO:

Ronnie Stone is a home decor and DIY geek, HGTV addict, writer and blogger. He’s currently writing for Octane Seating, the industry’s number one source for quality products, competitive prices and knowledgeable service.

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