Death: A Graveside Companion

Death: A Graveside Companion
Edited by Joanna Ebenstein, Foreword by Will Self
Featuring the Richard Harris Art Collection
Thames and Hudson, October 24, 2017
368 pages, 1,000 illustrations in color and black and white
Preorder here

The ultimate death compendium, featuring the world’s most extraordinary artistic objects concerned with mortality, together with text by expert contributorsDeath is an inevitable fact of life. Throughout the centuries, humanity has sought to understand this sobering thought through art and ritual. The theme of memento mori informs medieval Danse Macabre, the Tibetan Book of the Dead, Renaissance paintings of dissected corpses and “anatomical Eves,” Gothic literature, funeral effigies, Halloween, and paintings of the Last Judgment. Deceased ancestors are celebrated in the Mexican Day of the Dead, while the ancient Egyptians mummified their dead to secure their afterlife.

A volume of unprecedented breadth and sinister beauty, Death: A Graveside Companion examines a staggering range of cultural attitudes toward death. The book is organized into themed chapters: The Art of Dying, Examining the Dead, Memorializing the Dead, The Personification of Death, Symbolizing Death, Death as Amusement, and The Dead After Life. Each chapter begins with thought-provoking articles by curators, academics, and journalists followed by gallery spreads presenting a breathtaking variety of death-related imagery and artifacts. From skulls to the dance of death, statuettes to ex libris, memento mori to memorabilia, the majority of the images are of artifacts in the astonishing collection of Richard Harris and range from 2000 BCE to the present day, running the gamut of both high and popular culture.

Essays (In order of appearance):
  • Medusa and the Power of the Severed Head - Laetitia Barbier, Morbid Anatomy Library
  • Poe and the Pathological Sublime - Mark Dery, Cultural Critic
  • The Nutshell Studies of Unexplained Death - Bruce Goldfarb, Medical Examiner's Office, Baltimore
  • Art, Science and the Changing Conventions of Anatomical Representation - Michael Sappol, former historian at National Library of Medicine
  • Anatomy Embellished in the cabinet of Frederik Ruysch - Bert van de Roemer, Historian
  • Anatomical Expressionism - Eleanor Crook, Anatomical Artist
  • Playing with Dead Faces - John Troyer, Centre for Death and Society, University of Bath
  • The Power of Hair as Human Relic in Mourning Jewelry - Karen Bachmann, Master Jeweler and Art Historian
  • The Anatomy of Holy Transformation -  Liselotte Hermes da Fonseca, Art Historian
  • The Dance of Death - Kevin Pyle, Artist
  • Eros and Thanatos - Lisa Downing, University of Birmingham
  • Collecting Death - Evan Michelson, Morbid Anatomy Library Scholar in Residence
  • Death in Ancient and Present-Day Mexico - Eva Aridjis, Filmmaker
  • Playing dead – A Gruesome  Form of Amusement - Mervyn Heard, Magic Lantern Scholar and Performer
  • Theatre, Death and the Grand Guignol - Mel Gordon, author of Grand Guiginol and Voluptuous Panic
  • Death-Themed Amusements - Joanna Ebenstein, founder of Morbid Anatomy
  • Art and Afterlife: Ethel le Rossignol and Georgiana Houghton - Mark Pilkington of Strange Attractor Press
  • Holy Spiritualism - Elizabeth Harper, Independent scholar
  • Spiritualism and Photography - Shannon Taggart, photographer and independent scholar

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