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Posted by Vale



What is it with this fascination with bones and skeletons?

Faced with a pile of them and one man plasters into the walls and cornices, another creates chandeliers and shields while elsewhere anonymous skulls are given names, cleaned, polished and even appealed to for information.

Bones seem to be the acceptable face of death. Tangible reminders of course; a frisson of the macabre certainly, but once the Yorick lesson has been learned –  you might think there would be little more to add.

Alas, poor Yorick! I knew him, Horatio: a fellow
of infinite jest, of most excellent fancy: he hath
borne me on his back a thousand times; and now, how
abhorred in my imagination it is! my gorge rims at
it. Here hung those lips that I have kissed I know
not how oft. Where be your gibes now? your
gambols? your songs? your flashes of merriment,
that were wont to set the table on a roar? Not one
now, to mock your own grinning? quite chap-fallen?
Now get you to my lady’s chamber, and tell her, let
her paint an inch thick, to this favour she must
come; make her laugh at that.

Except that there always is. Faye Dowling has published a wonderful Book of Skulls that, through images, explores our continuing fascination:

And, for the ossuary lovers, Thames and Hudson are publishing Empire of Death.

It brings together the world’s most important charnel sites, ranging from the crypts of the Capuchin monasteries in Italy and the skull-encrusted columns of the ossuary in Évora in Portugal, to the strange tomb of a 1960s wealthy Peruvian nobleman decorated with the exhumed skeletons of his Spanish ancestors.

And our old friend St Pancras is on the cover too.

You can look at it here.

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