Scheda libro
Words and Images

Frenologia della vanitas

Il teschio nelle arti visive

  • Author: Alberto Zanchetta
  • Year: 2011
  • Language: Italian
  • Pages: 416
  • Price: 33.00 €
  • ISBN: 978-88-6010-038-2
  • Size: 16.5 x 24 cm
  • Illustrations: 151 b/w
  • Finish: Munken Lynx

Death has always been a topic of extreme fascination for man, a source of angst that has dominated artworks and the human imagination since time immemorial. Every era abounds with symbols for the transient nature of our earthly existence, but one stands out above all: the skull, that often “meditative” simulacrum that warns us of the futility of all worldly things and forces us to ponder the meaning of life. The definitive emblem of Vanitas, the skull crops up in Medieval imagery, topping off putrefying bodies that lie in wait for careless wayfarers. Stripped of its flesh, down to the bare bone, in the Renaissance the skeleton began the rise towards its seventeenth century pinnacle. Yet subsequently this image encountered varying fortunes. In the eighteenth century it lost most of its macabre connotations with the resurgence of subgenres connected to the memento mori, yet without dissipating its power. And while in the nineteenth century it made a half-hearted return, it was in the twentieth century that it regained much of its previous popularity. The turn of the millennium saw it on the crest of the wave, with skulls and skeletons once more dominating the visual arts. However this exponential increase in popularity, in quantity rather than quality, did not automatically correspond to a renewed power: art appears to be inured to the point of insensitivity to image of the skull. Inert, incapable of inspiring fear or imposing a moral agenda, the death’s head appears to have lost all its previous emphasis. This is the diagnosis reached by the author of Frenologia della vanitas after a long and complex exploration that seeks out unusual combinations and forges connections between past and present, styles and periods. The decision not to adopt a chronological structure or other forms of classification enables the arguments to develop rhizomatically, played out against the author’s underlying apprehension for the future of the skull.

  • About the author
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Alberto Zanchetta is an art critic and independent curator, he teaches story of contemporary art at Laba Accademy in Brescia. His publications include the pamphlet Antologia del misogino (2006) and the essay Humpty Dumpty Encomion (2007). He also writes on the reviews Flash Art, Arte e critica, Espoarte and he collaborated with Inside e Around Photography.

Premessa dell’autore - Craniologie, craniometrie & cranioscopie dell’arte

Liber mortuorum - Prolusione allo spazio e al tempo della vita

Mors certa, hora incerta - Vanitas e memento mori

Non omnis moriar - Esiste una clausola invariabile: “e poi morì!”

Tempus erit - Anche in Arcadia c’è morte

Sic transit gloria mundi - Le mostre sono dure a morire

Hic et nunc - Dal corpo verminoso al corpo secco

Reductus in pulverem - L’esilio della carne verso la cenere

Finis vitae, finis mundi - L’Apocalisse, costante ultima della morte

Mors omnia vincit - Tra danze e trionfi

Habeas vitam - Apologia della miseria umana

Cogitata mori - San Girolamo e Cesare Lombroso: viatico tra fede e razionalismo

Panopticon - L’argot criminale

Caput mortuum - All-Hallows-Eve: alla vigilia di Ognissanti

Cogitata species - Essere o non essere, tutto il resto è silenzio

In saecula saeculorum - Finché morte non vi separi (per poi ricongiungervi)

Contemptus mundi - Le nature silenziose

In articulo mortis - Simboli d’opulenza e di lordura

Opus magnum, omnia vanitas - Teschi lumeggianti

Imago mortis - Jan Fabre, l’entomologo

Adoratio mortis - I teschi di cristallo

Similia similibus curantur - Dall’Homo erectus al computer preistorico

R.I.P. (Requiescat in pace) - Effemeridi spiritiche

Conditio sine qua non - Sui cervi volanti

Plus salis quam sumptus - Lusso sfrenato – La posterità di Hirst

Imponderabilia - A proposito di “quel che luccica”

Post hominem vermis, post vermem foetor et horror - L’essere morti non ci dà riposo

Modus vivendi - Autoritratto con teschio

Ars longa, vita brevis - Guardare la morte in faccia

Neapolis - Vedi Napoli e poi muori

Mens sana in corpore sano - Una risata ci seppellirà tutti

Humor melancholicus - Il quarto temperamento dell’alchimia

Ars sine scientia nihil est - (Scheletriche) “prospettive curiose”

Disiecta membra - Sangue chiama sangue

Tempus facit experientiam - La fragile eternità di Quinn

Nomina sunt omina - Equivoco illegittimo: teschio o cranio?

Cogito ergo sum - Pensare (e osare dire) il teschio

Morituri inter mortuos - Polverose epigrafi

De mortuis nihil nisi bonum - Ossari e altri offici funerari

Principium individuationis - Fine Ottocento, primo Novecento

Miraculum mortuorum - Terzo millennio, la legge del rendimento crescente

Mixtum compositum - I plurimi possibili dell’arte contemporanea

Variatis variandis - “Autunno” cinese

Currit ferox aetas - Restano solo le ossa

Respice finem - L’etno-antropologia di Barceló

Josaphat - Bisogni indotti, o della pantomania funebre

Vox populi - L’immaginario popolare

Omnia mors aequat - Dal Jolly Roger al Pericolo di morte

Homo immortalis - Il caso De Dominicis

Viriditas - Bugie e sofismi

De profundis - L’asprezza delle radiografie

Theatrum mundi - La fotografia: temps révolu

Requiem (aeternam dona eis, Domine) - Negli aggregati d’ossa di Jiri Georg Dokoupil

Rara avis - Da furor (teutonico) a cenere

Post mortem - Postmodern

Finis coronat opus - Le ultime parole: commiato