Wax Souls

A Soul at Death, Giovanni Azzolino (1572-1645). Inscribed in Latin on the back “Death to the bad, life to the good”


A Soul in Purgatory, Giovanni Azzolino (1572-1645). Inscribed in Latin on the back: “Have pity on me.”
A Damned Soul, Gaetano Giulio Zumbo (1656-1701)
blesssed soul
A Blessed Soul, Gaetano Giulio Zumbo (1656-1701)

These wax images are found in the Victoria & Albert Museum, and show the potential destiny of the soul at death. They were created for private devotion so the Christian could meditate on the last things. The “memento mori” (“remembrance of death”), is not morbid. We made it morbid by detaching it from its real meaning. Shorn of its depth, its merely grisly. When we see it with the eyes of faith, however, it becomes a meditation on the human condition, and more: a pointer to the promise of resurrection.

The final two (Blessed and Damned) are attributed to Zumbo, who created larger wax memento mori tableaux in his teatrini (“little theaters”).