Wednesday, April 20, 2016

Memento Mori


Silver skull vinaigrette, Europe, 1701-1900

Like pomanders, vinaigrettes could be used as a vessel to hold strong smelling substances to be sniffed should the user be passing through a particularly smelly area. At a time when miasma theories of disease – the idea that disease was carried by foul air – were dominant, carrying a vinaigrette was considered a protective measure. Vapours from a vinegar-soaked sponge in the bottom were inhaled through the small holes in the top of the ‘acorn’. If a person felt faint they could also sniff their vinaigrette and the sharp vinegar smell might shock their body into action. The other side of the vinaigrette shows a face and could act as a memento mori – a reminder of death. The skull was probably hung from a piece of cord or necklace and carried at all times.
Silver-Skull vinaigrette (1701-1900)
Vinaigrettes held vinegar-soaked sponges in the bottom that were inhaled through the hole in the top. They were carried around the neck to be inhaled when confronted with strong smells. 

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