Carved images of death were cherished items in sixteenth- and seventeenth-century collectors' cabinets. Most were of wood, though ivory versions are known. They relate to the artistic preoccupation with death in the Late Middle Ages and the Renaissance. The naturalistic poses, gestures, and movement of drapery date this group to the mid-seventeenth century; indeed, the composition recalls an etching of 1663 by Stefano della Bella. The group is carved in one piece except for the plumes on the turban. The skeleton has an elaborately hollowed-out torso and neck, and the tendons of his forearms and lower legs are similarly undercut.
Artist: David Roentgen (German, Herrnhaag 1743–1807 Wiesbaden, master 1780)Date: ca. 1775–79 with later alterationsMedium: Oak, pine, walnut, mahogany, and cherry veneered with hornbeam (partially stained), tulipwood, walnut, holly and maple (both partially stained), boxwood, mahogany, and other woods; red brocatelle marble; gilt bronze; iron, steel, and brassAccession: 1982.60.81On view in:Gallery 539