Francesco Celebrano

Memento Mori

c. 1770
NEW - A memento mori – “remember that you must die” – is an object that warns us to prepare for death by living a virtuous, pious life. Time watches over the process of decay, from the putrefying body of a newly dead soldier – propped against his armour – to skeleton. The text in the book he holds contrasts man’s reluctance to face death with his inevitable, sudden end. The simple materials – painted wood, cork and cloth – set this apart from the marble or bronze of grand sculpture, yet the taste for such works was widespread, even if they are uncommon today in many museum collections. This work may be from Naples, which had a strong tradition of producing such miniature sculpture.

Private Collection, Naples, Italy (?)[1]

Private Collection, Florence, Italy (?) [2]

1968 – 1969/01/15
Artibus SA, Geneva, Switzerland [3]

1969/01/15 –
National Gallery of Canada, purchased from Artibus SA, Geneva, through Heim Gallery Ltd. (François Heim and Andrew Ciechanowieki), London, UK [4]

[1] In a letter to the NGC Research Curator Myron Laskin, Jr., Andrew Ciechanowiecki notes: “Concerning the Memento Mori it was purchased in Italy, if I remember well in Florence, but with a definitely indicated Neapolitan provenance.” [letter dated February 12, 1980, NGC curatorial file].

[2] See note [1].

[3] According to the Heim gallery records, the work was on consignment from Artibus SA, Geneva since 1968 [Heim Gallery records, Commission book, 1966-1970, C91004-202, Getty Research Institute, Los Angeles, USA]. The work was included in a 1968 sales catalogue by Heim Gallery and offered as by Lorenzo Vaccaro [“Baroque paintings, sketches & sculptures for the collector.” Heim Gallery, London, Autumn Exhibition 1968, lot no. 76].

[4] Accession log [NGC curatorial file].

Memento Mori
c. 1770
painted wood, cork, clay, and cloth
43.5 x 47 x 26.8 cm
Credit line
Purchased 1969
Accession number