- Gallery Text
This statuette depicting a decomposing cadaver armed with a bow and arrows (now lost) is an example of the type of “death figure” produced since the mid-16th century that served to remind the viewer of the transience of life and earthly pleasures. The snakes emerging from the cadaver’s muscles and skin, signifying the temptation of Adam and Eve, and the frogs—symbols of evil spirits—squatting inside the rib cage and on the sculpture’s base emphatically suggest the cadaver’s physical and spiritual deterioration.
- Identification and Creation
- Object Number
- Death with Left Hand Raised
- Work Type
- Creation Place: Europe, Germany, Upper Rhine
Level 2, Room 2540, European Art, 13th–16th century, The Renaissance
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- Physical Descriptions
- Linden wood
- 25.4 × 14 × 7.5 cm (10 × 5 1/2 × 2 15/16 in.)
- [Art dealer, Germany, sold]; [to M. Glueckselig & Son, New York, NY (?-1959), sold]; to Busch-Reisinger Museum, 1959.
According to a letter from Frederick Glueckselig of M. Glueckselig & Son to Charles L. Kuhn at the Busch-Reisinger Museum dated April 28, 1959, Mr. Glueckselig purchased both BR59.32 and BR59.33 from a well-known German art dealer without a detailed provenance history. Mr. Glueckselig did not disclose the name of the German art dealer and merely specified that the dealer had recently passed away.
- Acquisition and Rights
- Credit Line
- Harvard Art Museums/Busch-Reisinger Museum, Association Fund
- Accession Year
- Object Number
- European and American Art
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- Publication History
Theodor Müller, "Frühe Beispiele der Retrospektive in der deutschen Plastik", Sitzungsberichte der Bayerischen Akademie der Wissenschaften. Philosophisch-Historische Klasse (Munich, Germany, 1961), no. 1, pp. 20-22
Charles L. Kuhn, German and Netherlandish Sculpture, 1280-1800, the Harvard Collections, Harvard University Press (Cambridge, MA, 1965), p. 25-26, cat. no. 54 p. 100 [as Personification of Death], under cat. no. 55 pp. 101-103, repr. as pls. XLVIII and XLIX
Oliver Andrews, Living Materials: A Sculptor's Handbook, University of California Press (Berkeley, CA, 1983), p. 113, pl. 7.6
Peter Nisbet and Joseph Koerner, The Busch-Reisinger Museum, Harvard University Art Museums, ed. Peter Nisbet, Harvard University Art Museums and Scala Publishers Ltd. (Cambridge, MA and London, England, 2007), p. 219
Stephan Wolohojian, ed., Harvard Art Museum/ Handbook, Harvard Art Museum (Cambridge, MA, 2008), p. 92, repr.
Remember That You Will Die: Death Across Cultures, brochure, Rubin Museum of Art (New York, NY, 2010), p. 1, repr. as fig. 1
- Exhibition History
Objects for a Kunstkammer: Early European Collecting, 1550-1700, Harvard University Art Museums, Busch-Reisinger Museum, 12/10/2005 - 11/19/2006
Remember You Will Die: Death Across Cultures, Rubin Museum of Art, New York, 03/19/2010 - 08/09/2010
Ancient to Modern, Harvard Art Museums, Cambridge, 01/31/2012 - 06/01/2013
32Q: 2540 Renaissance, Harvard Art Museums, Cambridge, 04/20/2017 - 02/14/2018
- Subjects and Contexts
Google Art Project
- Related Works
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