Memento Mori


Still Life Studies with Severed Pig Head


“Sooner or later everyone realises that perfect happiness is unrealisable, but there are few who realise the antithesis: that perfect unhappiness is equally unattainable. … The certainty of death … places a limit on every joy, but also on every grief.” -- Primo Levi

This series of images continues with my ongoing studies of memento mori art. As with my previous still life work, these compositions appropriate the motifs of 17th century Dutch still life and attempt to blend the metaphorical content of classical vanitas paintings with my own horror-film-inspired visual aesthetic.

Both of the images in this series incorporate a severed pig head. For me the pig’s head serves as a kind of stand-in for the role that human skulls would traditionally play in vanitas paintings. There is, of course, a very long history of skull iconography in art, ranging from religious paintings, to still life, and through to more contemporary examples like Damien Hirsh’s bejewelled skull. (It’s certainly well outside the scope of this project to attempt anything even remotely resembling a comprehensive study of skull iconography, but it is interesting to note just how ubiquitous this symbol is. Skulls appear not only in art but also on pirate flags, on the lapels of the SS, on day of the dead cookies, decorating the walls of religious sites like the Catacombs or the church of Santa Maria della Concezione dei Cappuccini in Rome, on horror movie posters, on heavy metal album covers, on Halloween decorations, on children’s toys, etc, etc, etc. )


For these images I used a relatively fresh pig’s head. (The last one I purchased was maimed beyond use during my studies in disassembly…) While ripeness has certain advantages in terms of aesthetics, here I loved the way the fresh blood smearing the face and neck of the animal paired with the deep red of the roses and intestines.