Monday, February 13, 2012


Alas, Poor Yorick

Thanks to Eric Thomson for drawing my attention to two illustrations in works by Andreas Vesalius (1514-1564). In a curious variation on the vanitas theme, the illustrations show a skeleton contemplating a skull.

The first is from De Humani Corporis Fabrica Libri Septem (Basel: J. Oporinus, 1543), p. 164:

The inscription on the tomb in this first illustration comes from Elegiae in Maecenatem 1.38: "Vivitur ingenio, caetera mortis erunt." In the translation by J. Wight Duff and Arnold M. Duff: "Genius means life, all else will belong to death."

The second illustration, similar to the first, comes from Suorum De Humani Corporis Fabrica Librorum Epitome (Basel: J. Oporinus, 1543):

The inscription on the tomb in this second illustration comes from Silius Italicus 12.243-244:
solvitur omne decus leto niveosque per artus
it Stygius color et formae populatur honores.
In J. Wight Duff's translation:
Death robbed him of all his beauty: a Stygian hue spread over his snow-white skin and destroyed his comeliness.

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