Tuesday, June 17, 2008
Mememto Mori, or, The Head of Janus
I made a rewarding visit to the Musée d'Histoire de la Médecine in Paris last month, but thoroughly grossing out my husband with its extensive exhibits of surgical tools, including kidney stone extractors. Not something that a man who has had a kidney stone especially wants to look at. I've not had kidney stones, and I found the tools and illustrations painful to look at, and I've seen some pretty gross things in the course of my job. Do you want to see them? Next time.
I really liked this ivory carving from the 17th century, called the Head of Janus. I don't know if the Catholic school I went to didn't teach mythology as a matter of theology or what, but I never learned about the myths. So wikipedia to the rescue: "Janus was usually depicted with two heads (not faces) looking in opposite directions, and was frequently used to symbolize change and transitions such as the progression of past to future, of one condition to another, of one vision to another, the growing up of young people, and of one universe to another. He was also known as the figure representing time because he could see into the past with one face and into the future with the other."
There's nothing that says transition from one condition to another like a face on one side and a skull on the other.