Material Possessions and Mortality Depicted in Momento Mori

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About this sample


Words: 1369 |

Pages: 3|

7 min read

Published: Aug 4, 2023

Words: 1369|Pages: 3|7 min read

Published: Aug 4, 2023

Table of contents

  1. Introduction
  2. Material Possessions and the Quest for Immortality
  3. Toxicity of Material Possessions
  4. Conclusion
  5. Works Cited


Upon first glance of the artwork painted by Vincent Laurensz Van Vinne, the most conspicuous aspect of the piece is the label “Memento Mori” printed on a scroll of paper peeking out from beneath a tapestry of sorts. This happens to be the same label as what the author selected for as their title. Memento Mori directly translates to “remember death” in the English language. This message provides the reader with a reality check that life doesn’t last forever and that mortals, of which humans qualify, must remember that they have an expiration date. The author’s central claim argues that humans must spend their time on earth seeking to attain intangible emotions to carry on throughout a post-mortal life or inspire future generations after one’s passing due to life’s rapid nature rather than chasing material possessions or temporary pleasure. This central argument is supported through the use of both quotidian objects and luxuries such as musical instruments, books, or a skull to serve as a metaphor in describing the destructive affinity towards material possessions and temporary pleasure within our society while pressing the idea of mortality on the audience.

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Material Possessions and the Quest for Immortality

There are two main contributors, aside from the words “Memento Mori,” to the idea of mortality and a post-mortal life within the painting: the mechanical stopwatch and the skull. The mechanical stopwatch is of considerable significance because it illustrates both of these ideas with equal importance. If a stopwatch were to count down from a specific time such as the purpose of a timer, it represents the notion of mortality because the timer will eventually run out of time. The same goes for our lives as humans on earth. In the opposite sense, if a stopwatch were to continue running, it would depict a sense of prolongment of one’s spirit or ethos even after an individual’s time comes to end. The depiction of a skull furthers the idea of mortality because it is, in itself, the epitome of mortality; the skull is the object that everyone’s mind resorts to when they think of death or the passing of one’s mortal body.

The primary pieces of evidence identified from the painting that supports the author’s central argument are the various musical instruments tucked into the heaping medley of artifacts. While the act of playing a musical instrument may provide an individual with a sense of joy, it doesn’t contribute to their success in the afterlife. Music is a hobby undertaken by many people to attain temporary pleasure. This temporary pleasure derives from the production of chemical compounds within the brain that alters an individual’s physiological state. The change in one’s physiological state results from the reception of electric signals produced by soundwaves from musical instruments. The same phenomenon is similar to that provided by a plethora of drugs found rampant within our society. One can, therefore, make the connection that music, in a way, is a drug for the brain and that it results in only temporary pleasure. The fact that an instrument is also a material possession correlates with the author’s central argument due in part that material possessions can not be brought with an individual in their life beyond their time on earth. This renders music obsolete as well as the ability to produce music in the after-life.

Toxicity of Material Possessions

The purpose of the author’s depiction of a tapestry in conjunction with this gathering of objects is the promotion of the toxicity of material possessions. This tapestry may have, at some point in time, been used for bolstering an individual’s appearance regarding socioeconomic status. At the time, the individual that owned this tapestry may or may not have reaped the benefits of this “heightened” appearance, but in reality, the object remains behind when the individual in question dies. It remains an insignificant part of their life when considering what lies for them in the future. These material possessions provide people with temporary pleasure, but they don’t leave a lasting legacy of which is truly remembered by others when one dies.

In addition to the tapestry, the empty goblet lying parallel to the table is another object within this painting that supports the author’s central argument in regards to seeking material possessions rather than attaining intangible emotions or inspiring others. The goblet and its metaphorical relationship with the dead individual who previously owned this heap of artifacts represent their accumulation of wealth throughout their mortal life. If someone seeks material possessions throughout their life, their wealth may accumulate as they gather more and more items. Eventually, however, humans die and they leave these possessions behind thus resulting in an empty glass. If an individual were to seek to improve one’s self or the lives of others, they too would observe an accumulation of wealth similar to what was witnessed previously. Contrary to the previous situation, however, the glass would remain full when that individual dies because this legacy is what travels and sticks with someone even after their death.

The final aspect playing an integral role in providing the backdrop for the central argument of the piece is the setting itself. The setting depicted in this painting can be described as gloomy or grimy. The artifacts themselves rest on what appears to be a very uninviting surface of stone. The undesirable situation illustrated by these certain techniques have provided the author with a catalyst to further his argument about the culture surrounding materialism and society’s affinity for material possessions. Once one dies, these material possessions transform into antiquated objects left behind for no absolute purpose because they aren’t useful in guiding their pursuits and endeavors post-mortality.

As clearly demonstrated, the heap of inanimate luxuries such as the skull, the mechanical stopwatch, the musical instruments, and the tapestry all situated within a gloomy and unpalatable atmosphere support the notion that material possession are obsolete in the grander-scheme of an individual’s progression through and beyond their stages of life because they only provide for temporary pleasure. There is no thoughtful construction behind one’s ethos in the pursuit of material possessions, hence the idea that humans must focus on a more holistic approach to their mortal lives on earth by seeking to create a lasting inspiration on other humans or attempting to attain intangible emotions to carry on throughout their afterlife.


The idea of mortality imposed upon the audience of this piece relates to the “Network” because it’s a network through time, particularly between one’s current life and what awaits them when they die. Material possessions, as depicted by this piece, don’t contribute to the network of time because they are sources of temporary pleasure rather a source of inspiration. A network can’t survive if a connection is temporary; the connection must be consistent and resilient. Material possessions aren’t resilient because they cease to be helpful when one dies. For this reason, leaving a lasting legacy and inspiring future generations all the while seeking intangible emotions is much more important than the pursuit of material possessions because it provides a more consistent relationship between an individual’s ethos throughout time. Not only will this maintain a network through time between their mortal body and their soul due to attaining such experiences and emotions, but it also establishes a network of time between one’s self and other human beings. What will be remembered by future generations is the impact an individual had on society rather than the amount of “wealth” and material possessions flaunted throughout their mortal life on earth. 

Works Cited

  1. Heintzman, P., & Andrade, R. (2018). Memento mori: The impact of mortality salience on the pursuit of material possessions. Journal of Consumer Psychology, 28(4), 646-656. doi:10.1002/jcpy.1040

  2. Lee, S., Kim, H., Kim, J., & Joo, N. (2019). Materialism and subjective well-being: A meta-analysis. Journal of Happiness Studies, 20(6), 2045-2067. doi:10.1007/s10902-018-0041-x

  3. Zhou, X., Sedikides, C., Wildschut, T., & Gao, D. (2008). Counteracting loneliness: On the restorative function of nostalgia. Psychological Science, 19(10), 1023-1029. doi:10.1111/j.1467-9280.2008.02194.x

  4. Huta, V., & Ryan, R. M. (2010). Pursuing pleasure or virtue: The differential and overlapping well-being benefits of hedonic and eudaimonic motives. Journal of Happiness Studies, 11(6), 735-762. doi:10.1007/s10902-009-9171-4

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  5. Kashdan, T. B., Rose, P., & Fincham, F. D. (2004). Curiosity and exploration: Facilitating positive subjective experiences and personal growth opportunities. Journal of Personality Assessment, 82(3), 291-305. doi:10.1207/s15327752jpa8203_05

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Material Possessions and Mortality Depicted in Momento Mori. (2023, August 04). GradesFixer. Retrieved December 11, 2023, from
“Material Possessions and Mortality Depicted in Momento Mori.” GradesFixer, 04 Aug. 2023,
Material Possessions and Mortality Depicted in Momento Mori. [online]. Available at: <> [Accessed 11 Dec. 2023].
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