The Italians do lots of things well; coffee, fine leather-goods, underground crypts decorated exclusively with human bones.
A few years ago on my first trip to Rome I was introduced to memento mori in a pretty extreme way. I visited The Capuchin Crypt decorated with over 300 deconstructed Capuchin skeletons stacked upon each other.
I also encountered artistic antiquity and saw the motifs of skulls in still life, particularly in depictions of St Jerome who is depicted holding a skull.
Ah, Saint Jerome, always with a skull on his desk and three week old Chinese food in his fridge. His apartment looks like my old university house that I moved in to and never paid rent for.
Memento Mori is Latin for “remember (that you have) to die” and is a reminder of your own mortality and not to dwell on “things” because the “things” in heaven are way sweeter than the ones on earth bro, and you can keep those for, like, ever… So long as you go to heaven that is. So if you obtained your memento mori by ripping it from your friend’s living face as a nice desk paperweight you aren’t going to heaven… you’re probably going to that other place. NOT HELL, THE OTHER PLACE… you know the pit of despair, full of desperate people showing their worst sides… The domino’s pizza complaint line.
Speaking of people showing their worst sides, I just returned from a trip to Vegas. While I was there I went to the Bodies exhibit where unique preservation techniques have preserved actual humans that have been separated into all the different bodily systems. It brought me back to the bone crypt in Rome and reminded me of my own mortality and that I still wanted a memento mori of my own in my studio – much like Saint Jerome. Well they had some in the gift shop. Not real ones but medical grade replicas used for educational purposes. I brought it home and it now sits by my computer to remind me of my mortality and to remind me that skulls look super cool.
What I am now interested in is what customs thought when they saw the X-ray of my luggage and saw what would have looked like a human head in there and went right along and let me back into the country.