Portrait of a Man Holding a Skull

Image credit: The Henry Barber Trust, The Barber Institute of Fine Arts, University of Birmingham

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This portrait was painted as a pair with the image of the man’s wife appearing to the right. The man has not been identified, in spite of the coat of arms, but the inscription records that he was 60 years old. The double portrait celebrates the couple’s wealth and status, but the skull and the inscription ‘ITA MORI’ indicate a broader truth. Worldly possessions cannot hide the fact that we are doomed to ‘To Perish Thus’, from living flesh and blood to whitened bones.

Portrait of a Man Holding a Skull




oil on wood


H 94 x W 72.5 cm

Accession number


Acquisition method

purchased, 1938

Work type


Inscription description



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Normally on display at

The Barber Institute of Fine Arts

University of Birmingham, Edgbaston, Birmingham, West Midlands B15 2TS England

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