Looking at death as a woman came to me the other day when I ran across some pictures of death as a woman. I typically think of the same old image of a man in a robe and hood with a scythe. He is behind or beside some poor bugger in a bed in his last breath. The picture is sentimental and melancholic. [Including a discussion of violent death is avoided here because to do so is just spoils the whole thing.] So I found this first image by accident, actually it was in a Pinterest email (creepy, yes?) that “thought” I’d be interested. I was. I thought the theme to be unusual for a painting from whatever period it appeared to be. I was wrong. It is new.
So here stands a woman, in a very classical form, painted by a young Italian named Roberto Ferri whose work harkens back to perhaps the late Renaissance period where people still looked like people even if they were very much idealized.
My weak art history aside, the woman, Death, is not being subjugated by a male. Or raped, or carried off on a stallion, or peed on by cherubs nor even idolized in the center of an enormous shell born unto the realm of the gods.
She ponders, like Hamlet, the mortality of both men and women. Her power seems total but not without an ironic mercy for those at her feet.
Another work by the same artist, while on the same kind of theme is much stronger to me. It feels violent, and unlike our previous classic nude, appears to me to be both the cause of death and the abductor of life – perhaps the plague, or cancer, or merely age. Her hands are older than her body which I didn’t notice at first. Her right hand’s fingers begin to redden while her left hand cradles the skull in the shadows, red and marked by the signs of age accented with a wart. Whatever Ferri was thinking when he painted this I personally like the contrast of old hands and a young body. I’ll leave the rest to your imagination as I continue my quest for images and writings on this most intriguing topic.