There is much speculation regarding Baroness Mathilde de Rothschild’s extravagant collection of skulls and macabre artifacts, bequeathed sans explanation to the Musée des Arts Décoratifs in Paris, after her death in 1926. Was this French socialite’s fascination born of her time spent becoming intimately acquainted with death while training as a WWI nurse? Or perhaps a passion for hunting sparked an urge to collect such grisly trophies? One wonders if all of these experiences culminated in the Baroness unlocking for herself the inevitable recognition of the passage of time, that life is fleeting and transient, that pleasure and human activities are ultimately empty, and which led to collecting these tiny allegorical representation of death? Maybe it was a comfort for her to surround herself with reminders of her mortality.
Then again, maybe skulls just look really cool.
The late Baroness de Rothschild’s collection was available for viewing for the first time in a show called “Même Pas Peur!” — “Not Even Scared!”, or “Fearless!” — at the Fondation Bemberg in the southern French city of Toulouse. The exhibition ended September 30th, so in lieu of time travel (even though seeing these beautiful pieces in person would be totally worth futzing with the space-time continuum), have a look at the selected works below and contemplate your own mortality.
Images: MAD, Paris; Felipe Ribon; via The New York Times