© Robert Mapplethorpe Foundation. Used by permission.

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Skull 1988
  • Artist Rooms
The skull is the classic image of death and vanity, a reminder that we mortals are all destined to die. Mapplethorpe himself died from an AIDS-related illness in 1989 and in his latter work he tackled the prospect of his own death directly. He has placed the skull in such a position that the large eye sockets are emphasised, like black holes when set against the brightly lit forehead. Mapplethorpe has chosen to concentrate on those organs that determined his life – the eyes. He has also placed the skull in front of a diagonal line that not only holds it in place in the centre of the composition, but also acts as a shaft of light coming down from the same direction in which the skull is staring.


  • Acc. No. AR00223
  • Medium Photograph, gelatine silver print on paper
  • Size 47.60 x 47.00 cm (framed: 61.00 x 50.80 cm)
  • Credit ARTIST ROOMS National Galleries of Scotland and Tate. Acquired jointly through The d'Offay Donation with assistance from the National Heritage Memorial Fund and the Art Fund 2008