A silver pomander in the form of a skull.
German, 17th century.
Measures 3.2 x 2.4 x 2cm.
The hinged pendant opening to reveal a gilded interior, a segmented side, separated by a silver plate from a pierced side within the front of the skull.
At a time when plague and disease was rampant, the medical theory was that disease was carried by foul air. A pomander was considered an effective measure to protect the user of such illnesses.
A vinegar soaked sponge would have been stored behind the front compartment of the skull and the vapours could be inhaled through the small holes through the eyes, nose and teeth. The segmented compartment at the reverse of the skull would have contained different solidified scents, each with their own specific protective properties.
In case the pomander proved ineffective against protecting the wearer, the visual reminder of the skull, a representation of death and our mortality would be a useful reminder of what is to come for all of us.
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