We use cookies to ensure that we give you the best experience on our website. If you continue without changing your settings, we'll assume that you are happy to receive all cookies on the this website. See our cookie policy for information how to change your cookie settings.

Death: A self-portrait

Thursday 15 November 2012 - Sunday 24 February 2013

Our major winter exhibition showcases some 300 works from a unique collection devoted to the iconography of death and our complex and contradictory attitudes towards it. Assembled by Richard Harris, a former antique print dealer based in Chicago, the collection is spectacularly diverse, including art works, historical artefacts, scientific specimens and ephemera from across the world. Rare prints by Rembrandt, Dürer and Goya will be displayed alongside anatomical drawings, war art and antique metamorphic postcards; human remains will be juxtaposed with Renaissance vanitas paintings and twentieth century installations celebrating Mexico’s Day of the Dead. From a group of ancient Incan skulls, to a spectacular chandelier made of 3000 plaster-cast bones by British artist Jodie Carey, this singular collection, by turns disturbing, macabre and moving, opens a window upon our enduring desire to make peace with death. 

  • Image galleries

    Image galleries

    Explore objects and images from the exhibition.

  • An interview with Richard Harris

    An interview with Richard Harris

    In this interview, Richard Harris discusses how his collection of beautiful and unusual objects began with an interest in anatomy and grew from there. Hear about the breadth and depth of this remarkable collection from the collector himself.

  • Events


    A series of events accompanying 'Death: A self-portrait'.

  • 360 degree objects

    360 degree objects

    Explore some of the objects from 'Death: A self-portrait' in depth and detail with our 360 degree zoomable images.

  • Installing the bone chandelier

    Installing the bone chandelier

    This timelapse film shows the installation of Jodie Carey's In the Eyes of Others in the gallery for 'Death: A self-portrait'. Carey's 13 foot high chandelier is made of 3,000 handcrafted plaster bones.

  • Your objects of death

    Your objects of death

    We asked visitors to 'Death: A self-portrait' and this website to tell us about objects that they associate with death. See the objects and their stories. You can also tell us about your own object of death.

  • Death: A picture album

    Death: A picture album

    Take a look inside the book that accompanies the exhibition.

  • Stories from the day hospice

    Stories from the day hospice

    Throughout the summer of 2012, Chrissie Giles spent time at a day hospice running a creative writing group. In a series of posts on the Wellcome Collection blog she reflects on her experiences there and showcases some of the writing produced by group members.

  • Learning resources

    Learning resources

    Learning resources to complement the exhibition.

  • Young people respond

    Young people respond

    Find out more about 'Mortal: A drama', a co-produced performance inspired by 'Death: A self-portrait'.

Share |