Life And Death In Marble

Kiss of Death
Kiss of death

 Kiss of Death (El Petó de la Mort) in Catalan and El Beso de la Muerte in Spanish) is a magnificent sculpture located at Barcelona’s Poblenou Cemetery. Death — in the form of a winged skeleton — plants a loving kiss on a young man’s forehead.  The sculpture is thought to have been created by Jaume Barba.  Joan Fontbernat also has been named as the author.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAAs the story goes, the sculpture was commissioned to either Barba or Fontbernat  sometime in 1930 by the Llaudet family, mourning the untimely death of their beloved son. The verses of the epitaph were penned by Catalan’s most famous poet, Jacint Verdaguer:

And his young heart can not help;
in his veins the blood stops and freezes
and encouragement lost faith embraces
fall feeling the kiss of death…

Raffaele Monti. Veiled Marble

Marble covered with a translucent veil, made of… marble. How such a thing can be done?

Raffaele Monti. Veiled Vestal

Raffaele Monti. Veiled Vestal

The talent and genius of a sculptor notwithstanding, the secret is in a substance of a stone. The block of marble chosen for these marvelous sculptures had to have two layers — one translucent while another more dense. Such material is very rare, nonetheless, it does exist in nature. Raffaele Monti (1818 — 1881),  Italian sculptor, author and poet,  knew exactly what he was looking for.

Raffaele Monti. Veiled marble

Raffaele Monti. Veiled marble

Carving a block of marble, the sculptor ever so carefully worked along the boundary, separating the denser and more transparent part of the stone, chiseling veils out of a “transparent”  stone.

Michelangelo Buonarroti.  Moses

Horned Moses? Indeed, two horns like those of a goat, sticking above the marble curls, crown the head of Michelangelo’s Moses. Why Michelangelo sculpted horns on the noble head of Biblical prophet?

Michelangelo. Moses

Michelangelo. Moses (1513-1515, Church of San Pietro in Vincoli, Rome, Italy)

Many art historians lean to the opinion that the reason was a misinterpretation of the Bible’s story. The Book of Exodus says that when Moses, tablets of the Covenant in hand, descended from Mount Sinai, the Israelites had to cover their eyes — it was hard to look at his face.

Michelangelo. Moses (1513-1515)

To describe this phenomenon, the Book uses the word קרן (sounds like Qeren). The word Qeren has several meanings, among them  “ray” and “horn”. Thus Moses’ face either shone, reflecting rays of heavenly light, or Moses grew horns after the epiphany on the mountaintop. Michelangelo’s interpretation of Qeren is immortalized in the two marble protrusions on the head of the prophet.

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Smile  page was recently updated as well. Happy Fools Day!

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One comment on “Life And Death In Marble

  1. Hi,
    Really enjoyed your post. Wanted to add to your points about “Kiss of Death” that, ideed, the author was Joan Fontbernat. His father in law (Jaume Barba) was the owner of the studio and the city council wrote his name as the author and, despite efforts from Joan’s daughter to correct it, the sign has not yet been amended.

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