A medical training skull in a portrait attributed to Annibale Carracci (ca. 1580–85)

Philippe Charlier, Francesco M. Galassi, Fabiola Bouabdallah, Saudamini Deo

Research output: Contribution to journalLetterpeer-review


Dear Editor,
Throughout history human skulls have been the subject of pictorial representation in Western art, often as a means of stressing the concept of the fleetingness of all things mortal. Pagan art, especially Roman, abounds with such representations, also including full skeletons, conveying the notion of “memento mori”, “remember that thou art mortal” [1]. Later Christianity-influenced art, likely inspired by the opening words of the biblical Book of the Ecclesiastes (Vanitas vanitatum et omnia vanitas) promoted the realization of Vanity-themed paintings (symbolic depictions related to the transience of life, the futility of pleasure, and the certainty of death), or, in the context of a subject like the Crucifixion of Christ, portrayed a skull at the feet of the cross [2]. With particular reference to the latter case, the skull was interpreted as Adam's, hence the place of the execution, known as Mount Golgotha, took its names, as can be seen in its Latin and Greek toponyms, Calvariae Locus and Κρανίου Τόπος (calvaria and κρανίον meaning “skull”) [3].

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)402-403
Number of pages2
JournalJournal of the Neurological Sciences
Publication statusPublished - 15 Apr 2017
Externally publishedYes


  • Correspondence
  • Annibale Carracci
  • Pietro Faccini
  • Western art
  • human skull
  • depiction of the human skull
  • training device
  • trepan
  • trepanation


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