Psychology Today: Are We Really Terrorized By Thoughts of Death?

A strange personification of Death emerged from the Plague years on the painted walls of the Camposanto in Pisa. The figure is not the conventional skeleton, but a black-cloaked old woman with streaming hair and wild eyes, carrying abroad-bladed murderous scythe.  Her feet end in claws instead of toes. Depicting the triumph of Death, the fresco was painted in or about 1350  by Francesco Traini as part of a series that included scenes of the Last Judgement and the Tortures of hell. The same subject, painted at the same time by Traini’s Master, Andrea Orcagna, in the church of Santa Croce in Florence, has Since been lost except for a fragment.  Together the frescoes marked the start of a pervasive presence of Death in art, not yet the cult it was to become by the end of the century, but its beginning.

Usually Death was personified as a skeleton with an hourglass and scythe, in a white shroud or bare-boned, grinning at the irony of man’s fate reflected in his image: that all men, from beggar to emperor, from harlot to queen, from ragged clerk to Pope, must come to this. No matter what their poverty or power in life, all vanity, equalized by death.  The temporal is nothing; what matters is the after-life of the soul.

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Psychology Today: Are We Really Terrorized By Thoughts of Death?.