Fulvio De Marinis
Oil and gold & sand on canvas, 30x60 cm.
In the words of the artist:
Some churches in Naples and, certainly, the Fontanelle cemetery, with hundred of skulls from common graves, give us insight into the small container-shrines of wood, glass or marble that hold them. At one time, these anonymous and unknown "adoptees" were kept polished by the people and shone in the shadows. Today they are covered with dust. The devotees of these souls, with their prayers and care, eased the passage of their wards from Purgatory to Paradise. In exchange, the pezzentelle—those poor souls behind the skulls, those who had had nothing in life—took the place of saints and martyrs in the hearts of Neapolitans and gave relief from illness and the travails of life, from the horrors of war, from misery, from life without love. Supplicants asked that their sons might return safely from war, or asked only for someone to love and be loved by, or for health for themselves and their families, or maybe for a bit of money. In one of the many letters found in the "adopted skulls" that inspired my painting we find: "Dear soul, come to me in my dreams and tell me your name. Grant me the grace of some lucky numbers in the lottery; dear soul, grant me that and I shall be true to you...". Those departed souls reminded us that we have to live and not just die, and they helped us materially to do just that.
(ed.note) On the back of the small container there is a series of repeated lottery or smorfia numbers: 46 (money), 48 (the dead man who talks) and 85 (souls in Purgatory). The note at the bottom of the painting reads "For grace received" and is signed by the aritst, Fulvio De Marinis. The painting is a play on the well-known Latin phrase Memento mori (Remember that you must die), rephrasing the traditional iconographic symbolism (the skull) as "Remember to live".