Journal of Art Historiography (2017-12-01)

Made in the skull's likeness: of transi tombs, identity and memento mori

  • Jakov Đorđević

Journal volume & issue
no. 17
pp. 17 – JD1


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This paper examines the ways in which identity in the later Middle Ages could be displayed through the means that paradoxically seem to dissolve the very idea of identity – the image of the decomposed body. In the following pages it is argued that the transi or cadaver monuments were considered to represent the true portraits of deceased individuals, emphasizing that those buried beneath were experiencing purgatorial pains. Special attention is devoted to the mechanisms which were employed in order for the transis to be fashioned as individual portraits. Even though cadaver monuments were not part of the experience of Italian art of Trecento and Quattrocento, it is argued that, albeit all the differences from its northern counterparts, the tomb slab of Antonio Amati should be considered as a true transi tomb as well as the true portrait of the deceased.