August 08, 2021

The pale color, the exposed teeth, especially the hollow eye sockets, seemed to have the power to take everything away, making people plunge into endless darkness. This strong visual impact also created people's fear of skeletons. Skeletons often appear in Western paintings and use them to express nothingness.

Then the question comes-why do Western paintings use skeletons to represent nothingness? 

Speaking of skull culture, what can develop into a national festival is the "Day of the Dead" in Mexico. After Mexico became a Spanish colony, Christian culture has gradually integrated. Skull and pumpkin heads are also used in the Day of the Dead. 

In fact, skeletons have been a common theme in European art since the Renaissance. In addition to skeletons, some other objects have also been given symbolic meanings. Such as candles, clocks, books, hourglasses, flowers, etc.

And these skeletons have a common name: "Void", Vanitas. From the Bible "Ecclesiastes": "Utterly meaningless! Everything is meaningless", or a Latin motto: "Don't forget that the world will eventually die."

This extreme depiction of death has a lot to do with the turmoil in Europe in the past two centuries. The Black Death in the mid-fourteenth century took away more than one third of the population of Europe, and the Great Split of the Catholic Church and the Hundred Years' War between Britain and France that lasted until the mid-fifteenth century further impacted European society. The turmoil of the past two centuries has strongly impacted the beliefs of the European people. People have begun to think deeply about the meaning of life and feel the fragility of life.

Since it cannot be defeated, how should we face it?

In "Being and Time", Heidegger gave an ultimate answer to this question: the countdown method in the sense of life-"Living to death"." Living toward death" does not make you anxious about the finiteness of life, but instead expands its width after knowing the length of life and turns finiteness into infinity.

Because when people are close to death, all souls will be excited. At the interfcea between life and death, people will have to understand the meaning of life and death. Therefore, the skeleton, which directly represents the philosophy of death, can easily become an artistic symbol or totem and is worshipped by others.

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