Tuesday, November 7, 2017

Happy Birthday to "Death: A Graveside Companion:" New Book on Art and Death by our Founder Joanna Ebenstein

We would like to wish a festive happy birthday to Death: A Graveside Companion--the new book by our founder Joanna Ebenstein--whose official US release date is today!

You can order a copy of this epic book which explores, via over 1,000 images and 19 essays, humankind's attempts attempts – mythological, scientific and popular – to imagine, respond to, or find meaning in the mystery of death here.

Image from the book: Ivory Memento Mori by an unknown maker from c. 1640. In the 16th century, the memento mori--or objects created to urge the viewer to contemplate their mortality--moved from the church or the cemetery to the home, with the creation of artworks and objets d’art such as this one. It shows a skeleton standing among symbols of earthly glory, highlighting the futility of vanity and worldly pleasures.

More on the book follows. Hope you enjoy!

Death: A Graveside Companion
Edited by Joanna Ebenstein, Foreword by Will Self
Featuring the Richard Harris Art Collection
Thames and Hudson, October 24, 2017
368 pages, 1,000 illustrations in color and black and white
Available here

A one-of-a-kind art history, Death: A Graveside Companion is a captivating treasury of images that serves as a testament to humanity’s quests—metaphysical, mythological, scientific, and popular—to imagine, respond to, and come to terms with our own inescapable end.

From the hour of death to the afterlife, seven themed chapters exhibit a staggering range of artworks, artifacts, trophies, and keepsakes from around the world and throughout the ages, counterbalanced by nineteen insightful essays, accessible yet scholarly, from contributors across a broad arc of disciplines and perspectives.

In catacombs, crypts, and bone-pits, readers will find reliquaries, embalmings, and mummies; see somber rites and customs morph into the celebrations of Halloween and Day of the Dead; and behold the great artistic traditions—Memento Mori, Vanitas, Danse Macabre—juxtaposed with vernacular tokens, found photography, and curios from bygone rituals in exotic lands. The majority of the images—which range from fine art to scientific illustration to pop culture ephemera—are drawn from the largely unseen collection of Richard Harris, who has amassed over 3,000 objects related to death.

“Today, it is deemed morbid to view images related to death or contemplate death,” says Joanna Ebenstein, founder of Morbid Anatomy, who edited DEATH: A Graveside Companion. “The abundance of images in this book proves that this attitude is by far the exception rather than the rule. This book, I hope, will help provide a balance in our one-sided view of death, in which we tend to avoid it or consider it impolite to speak about despite the fact that it will inevitably happen to each of us, and will restore these forgotten and reviled images to a place of dignity and appreciation as important artifacts of humankind’s attempts to make sense of its most profound mystery.”

Rich in never-before-published material, Death: A Graveside Companionis a book like no other, brimming with morbid inspiration and macabre insights to take to the grave.

Essays (In order of appearance):
  • Medusa and the Power of the Severed Head - Laetitia Barbier, Morbid Anatomy Library
  • Poe and the Pathological Sublime - Mark Dery, Cultural Critic
  • The Nutshell Studies of Unexplained Death - Bruce Goldfarb, Medical Examiner's Office, Baltimore
  • Art, Science and the Changing Conventions of Anatomical Representation - Michael Sappol, former historian at National Library of Medicine
  • Anatomy Embellished in the cabinet of Frederik Ruysch - Bert van de Roemer, Historian
  • Anatomical Expressionism - Eleanor Crook, Anatomical Artist
  • Playing with Dead Faces - John Troyer, Centre for Death and Society, University of Bath
  • The Power of Hair as Human Relic in Mourning Jewelry - Karen Bachmann, Master Jeweler and Art Historian
  • The Anatomy of Holy Transformation -  Liselotte Hermes da Fonseca, Art Historian
  • The Dance of Death - Kevin Pyle, Artist
  • Eros and Thanatos - Lisa Downing, University of Birmingham
  • Collecting Death - Evan Michelson, Morbid Anatomy Library Scholar in Residence
  • Death in Ancient and Present-Day Mexico - Eva Aridjis, Filmmaker
  • Playing dead – A Gruesome  Form of Amusement - Mervyn Heard, Magic Lantern Scholar and Performer
  • Theatre, Death and the Grand Guignol - Mel Gordon, author of Grand Guiginol and Voluptuous Panic
  • Death-Themed Amusements - Joanna Ebenstein, founder of Morbid Anatomy
  • Art and Afterlife: Ethel le Rossignol and Georgiana Houghton - Mark Pilkington of Strange Attractor Press
  • Holy Spiritualism - Elizabeth Harper, Independent scholar
  • Spiritualism and Photography - Shannon Taggart, photographer and independent scholar

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