Ageing, Aura, and Vanitas in Art: Greek Laughter and Death

Babette Babich


Beginning with the representation of age in extremis in the nature morte or still life, a depiction of aged artifacts and representations of vanitas, artistic representations particularly in painting associate woman and death. Looking at artistic allegories for age and ageing, raising the question of aura for Walter Benjamin along with Ivan Illich and David Hume, this essay reflects on Heidegger on history together with reflections on the ‘death of art’ as well as Arakawa and Gins and Bazon Brock, both as artists ‘at your service,’ as Brock would say, contra death, and including a brief discussion of wabi sabi and kintsugi. The ‘ageing’ of art includes a review of the (ongoing) debate concerning Michelangelo’s forging of the Laocoon as well as ancient views of age together with contemporary philosophic reflections (Simone de Beauvoir and Michel de Certeau). The figure of Baubô in ancient Greek sculpture and cultic context can make it plain, as Nietzsche shows (as Sarah Kofman follows him on this), that laughter and death are connected (along with fertility cults in antiquity). Satire preserves the Greek tradition of laughing at death and the essay closes with Swinburne.


Allegory; Nature morte; Aura; Demeter/Iacchus; Sculpture

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ESPES. The Slovak Journal of Aesthetics (ISSN 1339-1119) is published biannually by University of Presov, Slovakia and the Society for Aesthetics in Slovakia. Registration number of the journal in the Register of Periodical Publications of the Ministry of Culture of the Slovak Republic: EV173/23/EPP.

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