Memento mori

Memento mori means “remember that you are going to die” and is a formula of medieval Christianity. Expressing the vanity of earthly life, it refers to the “art of dying”, or Ars moriendi. It induces an ethic of detachment and asceticism. It is close to another Latin locution: “Sic transit gloria mundi” (“Thus passes the glory of the world”).

Its origin dates back to Greco-Roman antiquity, when a slave stood beside a victorious general during his triumph (parade) to remind him of his mortal condition. The phrase “Hominem te esse” (“You too are only a man”) was also used.

This vision of the human condition gave rise to many artistic representations.

Antonio de Pereda y Salgado  (1611-1678)
Allegory of vanity, 1634,
Kunsthistorisches Museum, Vienna
Vanity still life, Anonymous, 17th century
Vanity still life, Anonymous, 17th century
Vanity, or Allegory of Human LifePhilippe de Champaigne, 1644

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