Kathleen C. Paul '18, Gettysburg College

Document Type

Student Research Paper

Publication Date

Fall 2017

Department 1



The jasper skulls in this Curiosity Cabinet sit on the scale atop the touch-ables table. Jasper, a type of impure silica usually a reddish color, is commonly carved for small sculptures, as we see in the skulls.

The reddish tones of both skulls match the overall tone of the cabinet nicely, as well as complimenting the rich medium blue of the walls. Thematically, skulls perfectly align with other objects in the cabinet.

A ubiquitous theme of curiosity cabinets in the 16th and 17th century is the inevitability of death. Symbols of this notion in art work are known as Memento mori or vanitas. Memento mori is derived from Latin, and roughly translates to, “remember you will die.” Vanitas is a related term with similar meaning: all Earthly pursuits are feeble because they are temporary. (excerpt)


Produced as part of a collaboration between Kay Etheridge's course FYS-188: Exploration of the Marvelous: Art and Science in the Renaissance, and Felicia Else's course ARTH 284: Wonders of Nature and Artifice: The Renaissance Quest for Knowledge.

Original version online at