Funerary Portrait of Jacques Damala

Death in Art

— Life's only guarantee

Memento Mori, vanitas, mortality — death is one of the most pervasive themes in art history. While many artworks celebrate afterlives in heaven or hell, death is most often referenced as grim reminder of numbered days, and a powerful motivator to live well while you can. Every culture has rituals surrounding death, appearing in artwork as icons and colors. Hourglasses and wilted flowers for the Dutch, the Cuckoo bird in Japan, the Totenkopf in Germany.

Reed Enger, "Death in Art, Life's only guarantee," in Obelisk Art History, Published February 12, 2015; last modified January 08, 2021,

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A Funeral

Anna Ancher, 1891

After the Storm

Sarah Bernhardt, 1876

Ahasuerus at the End of the World

Adolf Hirémy-Hirschl, 1888

Akashi Gidayū’s Death Poem

Tsukioka Yoshitoshi, 1890

Camille Monet on her Deathbed

Claude Monet, 1879


Giampietrino, 1524-1526

Cleopatra Testing Poisons on Condemned Prisoners

Alexandre Cabanel, 1887

Crucifixion and Last Judgement

Jan Van Eyck, 1430-1440

Death and Life

Gustav Klimt, 1910-1915

Death and the Maiden

Marianne Stokes, c. 1908

Death of Clytaemnestra

Stanley William Hayter, 1949

Death of Constantine


Death of the Horseman or Brandemart Crying

Émile Bernard, 1892

Descent from the Cross

Rembrandt van Rijn, 1633

Disk of Mictlantecuhtli

1 CE-600 CE

Dying Gaul

250 BCE

Executions on the Third of May

Francisco de Goya y Lucientes, 1814

Funeral and the Crescent

Ibrahim El-Salahi, 1963

Funerary Portrait of Jacques Damala

Sarah Bernhardt, 1889

Ghosts of the Forest

Marsden Hartley, 1938

Gold Marilyn Monroe

Andy Warhol, 1962

Grave Circle A (Mycenae)

1600 BCE-1550 BCE

Grave Circle B (Mycenae)

1675 BCE-1550 BCE

Grave Mask from Grave Circle A

1600 BCE-1500 BCE


Pablo Picasso, 1937

Hope 1

Gustav Klimt, 1903

In Memoriam Karl Liebknecht

Käthe Kollwitz, 1920

Iris in a Vase

Marie Bracquemond, 1886

Lace Glove

Hippolyte Bayard, 1843-1846

Lady of Baza

350 BCE


El Greco, 1604-1614

Laocoön and His Sons

200 BCE

Massacre of the Innocents

Pieter Bruegel the Elder, 1565-1567

Mummy with an Inserted Panel Portrait of a Youth

c. 80 CE-100 CE

The town was on fire, the quarter where the poor Jews lived. They carried the bed and the mattress, the mother and the babe at her feet, to a safe place at the other end of town. But, first of all, I was born dead.

My Life - Marc Chagall Autobiography: Chapter 1

Marc Chagall, 1922


Ferdinand Hodler, 1890


John Everett Millais, 1851-1852


Sarah Bernhardt, 1880

Pentre Ifan Dolmen

3500 BCE

Red Hill and Bones

Georgia O'Keeffe, 1941

Ria Munk on her Deathbed

Gustav Klimt, 1912

Sarcophagus of Seianti Hanunia Tlesnasa

140 BCE

Seaside Cemetery

Adolf Hirémy-Hirschl, 1897

Self-Portrait as Drowned Man

Hippolyte Bayard, 1840

Skeletons Fighting over a Hanged Man

James Ensor, 1891

Souls on the Banks of the Acheron

Adolf Hirémy-Hirschl, 1898

Still Life with Sparrow Hawk, Fowl, Porcelain and Shells

Clara Peeters, 1611

The Anatomy Lesson of Dr. Nicolaes Tulp

Rembrandt van Rijn, 1632

The Angel of Death

Evelyn De Morgan, 1881

The Assassination

James Ensor, 1890
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