Curious Trends


Bones in design art

Tied in with the current fascination for all things deathly, there’s been a marked increase in the use of bones in design art. Whilst this hasn’t filtered down into the mainstream yet, some curiously commercial associated products have been appearing on supermarket shelves…

Could the inspiration for this trend have dome from Rome’s Capuchin Crypt?

This crypt, or ossuary, contains the remains of 4,000 friars buried between 1500-1870, during which time the Roman Catholic Church permitted burial in and under churches. The underground crypt is divided into five chapels, lit only by dim natural light seeping in through cracks, and small fluorescent lamps. The crypt walls are decorated with the remains to form a macabre work of art. Some of the skeletons are intact and draped with Franciscan habits, but for the most part, individual bones are used to create elaborate ornamental designs.

The crypt originated at a time when there was something of a cult for the dead and spiritual meditation involved preaching with a skull in the hand. A memento mori plaque in one of the chapels reads, ‘What you are now, we once were; what we are now, you shall be.’ A sign at the crypt explains that, ‘in the spirit of Saint Francis of Assisi, human bones have been used to create an artwork that is a hymn to faith in the final resurrection. This is suggested by many symbols dotted about on the walls and in the vaults (a clock face, a skeleton surrounded by an oval wreath, friars either standing or reclining and vested in their habits…) and also a painting of the resurrection of Lazarus.’

Surprisingly, contemporary artists are also using real bones to create modern installations, like this walk-through ‘Passage’ by Guillaume Allemand, made from animal bones and polished steel.

Olu Shobowale’s Coffin “to die for” can be seen at the current Royal Academy Summer Exhibition.

The mixed media piece is also made from animal bones, but includes found curiosities such as old CDs, bottle-tops and camera film cartridges.

Shobowale's blog is well worth a visit and includes some of his other works, including a unique ‘Chicken Chair.’

Moving away from organic materials, Mark Dion’s Skeleton Cabinet 2006 consists of a plastic skeleton cast, covered in tar, in a wooden shipping crate.

Fine artists are also featuring bones in their work, as in Laurie Lipton’s extraordinary drawings at Luxe et Vanites and some of Abi Trotman’s sketches.

And, from Canada, come these Ossi dei Morti (bones of the dead) crunchy Hazelnut cookies.

Or here’s a recipe for the homemade version – they’re traditionally served on All Soul's Day, at the beginning of November.


By Anatomy UK on 19/07/2011 17:43:57

Great article - definately getting myself down to the RA summer show to see that coffin, thanks for the tip!

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