Saint Petersburg State University, Russia
The philosophical image of “Memento mori” (lat. “remember (that you have) to die”) expresses the idea of the vanity of earthly life. People, during many centuries, felt disquiet about the frailty of existence and expressed their feelings in different kinds of art. That iconographic type of jewellery has a particular role, and is originally disclosed in the heritage of Western Europe. Most of studies of the “Memento mori” are currently concentrated in the art of the 16th to 17th centuries, firstly with “Vanitas” painting. At the same time, applied arts undeservedly rest in a shadow.
Nevertheless, numerous “Memento mori” jewellery referred to in the late Middle Ages and Renaissance, show the development of a special artistic imagery of this motif in the context of changes in its historical and philosophical perception in different epochs.
Case studies of the monuments of the jeweller’s art reveal the individual interpretation of the iconographic type “Memento mori” since Antiquity, and also help to identify major trends, and their stylistic and technological features. Special attention is paid to the reflection of religious movements and social changes on emblems, especially in the era of the Reformation and the establishment of humanistic ideas in Europe.
This study is focused on the formation problem of the iconography of “Memento mori” in Renaissance jewellery, which finds no ideological and stylistic support in the reappeared heritage of Antiquity. Thus, contrary to the general tendency, the jewellery of that period continues to evolve in the medieval canon. As a result, examples from the Renaissance demonstrate a composite nature.
The specifics of jewellery are not allowed to reveal all variations of iconography type “Memento mori” that can be represented in other kinds of art. However, thanks to the variety of techniques and materials, jewellers created an original recognizable language of symbols, which enriches the semantic content of products, combining “Memento mori” with the marriage and funeral ceremony.