Highlights of the British Collection:

Images of Death in Monumental Brasses

Most brasses depicted people in various costumes but there are also other monumental brasses showing various images of death.

During the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries the danse macabre or Dance of Death became a popular depiction on tombs, monumental brasses and other items. Death, depicted as a skeletal figure, is often shown holding a scythe, spade, spear or dart.

Some brasses show the person as a corpse or skeleton. There are shroud brasses showing the dead person in their funeral shroud. The body can be shown as emaciated or as a skeleton and sometimes the shroud is tied at the top and bottom. Many of these brasses date from the mid-fifteenth to early sixteenth centuries.

Brasses commemorating infants who died in their first month are known as chrysom brasses and show the child in swaddling clothes. If the mother also died, then the chrysom is shown as part of a memorial to the mother, often in her arms.

Painting of Dance Macabre

Painting of Dance Macabre on a wooden panel (AN1990.101)

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Sarah Glover
January 2012