Sex and Death, Skeleton-style?

Hans Baldung Grien, Death and the Maiden, 1518-20

Via Morbid Anatomy, I discovered that artist Saul Chernock has written an interesting mini-essay on historical portrayals of "the Undead, images of beings that hover between the realms of life and death."

Daniel Hopfer, Death and the Devil Surprising Two Women, circa 1500-10

Many of the woodcuts, engravings, and paintings he collected for this post juxtapose death and sex in ways that, according to Chernock, "provide an interesting counterpoint to the contemporary Zombie whose appetites have essentially been neutered. I suppose we should all be thankful that zombie porn isn't as popular today as it was back in the sixteenth century."

It certainly seems true that portrayals of sex after death have changed vastly, from memento mori to mockery. Consider the humorous foreign ad campaign after the fold (Via Street Anatomy, and arguably not work safe - depending on your coworkers' sense of humor):



Ad campaign concept for Tulipan condoms, by Guillermo Vega

Note the tagline: "be careful." The vision of skeletons having sex is ludicrous to today's audience - almost as ludicrous as the R-rated puppets in Team America: World Police. The absurdity lightens the serious health message about unsafe sex implicit in the ad concept. But to people several hundred years ago - the audience for the images in Chernock's post - it would have had serious symbolic overtones as well, about sin, carnality, and punishment.

Hans Sebald Beham, Death and the Three Naked Women, circa 1520-50

Read Chernock's complete post here.

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Well, in my experience (until now), the people I know who would call them "spooky"--as opposed to, oh, delightfully morbid--are entirely in the group that would call them a bad thing. But it is nice to know there are exceptions. :)