Arnold Böcklin death

Self-Portrait with Death Playing the Fiddle | Arnold Böcklin

Self-Portrait with Death Playing the Fiddle is a self-portrait  painted in 1872 by the Swiss symbolist artist Arnold Böcklin.

Arnold_Boecklin death

“The painting depicts a bearded Böcklin stalked by a personification of death playing a single-stringed violin in an intimation of his mortality. It is an echo of an earlier painting of Sir Brian Tuke by an anonymous painter c.1540, part of the collection of the Alte Pinakothek in Munich, in which the shadowing figure of Death is pointing at an hourglass.” – Source

Death and mortality is a recurring theme in Böcklin’s works, notable mentions include Isle of the Dead,  Plague and War.

“Don’t behave as if you are destined to live forever. What’s fated hangs over you. As long you live and while you can, become good now.”

Marcus Aurelius


***A memento mori is a reminder of death. It is a key practice in Stoicism but is not unique to it. It can be a simple visual reminder or quote or a more serious mediation on death.  Stoics use it to remind themselves of how short and fragile life is and therefore how much we have to be grateful for, to live virtuous lives, and not to waste our time.

In this series, each Monday, I will post a memento mori from various sources, either from the primary Stoic texts themselves or other sources.

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