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A Skeleton as a Woman Wearing a Brown and Red Dress and a Black Headdress

Photo credit: Wellcome Collection

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This picture can be interpreted in several ways. It can be seen as a woman, dressed in her earthly finery, but with her body shown as it will be after her death – as a skeleton. In a parody of seduction, she lifts her dress to reveal a shapely leg, but all she can show are bones. Her earthly attractions have perished, and she is a reminder to the living of the fate that awaits everyone. Conversely, it can be seen as the figure of Death in the guise of a woman, trying to draw the male viewer into the clutches of death by the female arts of seduction. In the latter case, death can mean physical death or it can mean death that comes to soul through sin: the biblical phrase 'Stipendium peccati mors' was once well known (Saint Paul's Epistle to the Romans 6:23, "For the wages of sin is death").

Wellcome Collection

London

Title

A Skeleton as a Woman Wearing a Brown and Red Dress and a Black Headdress

Date

c.1680

Medium

oil on canvas

Measurements

H 174 x W 73 cm

Accession number

43944i

Acquisition method

purchased

Work type

Painting

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Wellcome Collection

183 Euston Road, London, Greater London NW1 2BE England

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