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A kapala (Sanskrit for “skull”) is made from a human skull used as a ritual implement (bowl) in both Hindu Tantra and Buddhist Tantra (Vajrayana). Especially in Tibet, they were often carved or elaborately mounted with precious metals and jewels.

Appliqué, 19th century. German. The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York. Rogers Fund, 1909 (09.50.2189)

Appliqué, 19th century. German. The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York. Rogers Fund, 1909 (09.50.2189)

Battista Franco (Italian, ca. 1510–1561). Skull in Profile, ca. 1538. The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York. Robert Lehman Collection, 1975 (1975.1.326)

Battista Franco (Italian, ca. 1510–1561). Skull in Profile, ca. 1538. The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York. Robert Lehman Collection, 1975 (1975.1.326)

Rosary Terminal Bead with Lovers and Death's Head, ca. 1500–1525. Made in North France or South Netherlands. The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York. Gift of J. Pierpont Morgan, 1917 (17.190.305) | Here, the striking terminal bead announces the constant proximity of death by joining a skull to the pair of vivacious lovers. Such an image is known as a memento mori (reminder of death), as it encourages one to reflect on the transience of life. #skeleton

Rosary Terminal Bead with Lovers and Death's Head, ca. 1500–1525. Made in North France or South Netherlands. The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York. Gift of J. Pierpont Morgan, 1917 (17.190.305) | Here, the striking terminal bead announces the constant proximity of death by joining a skull to the pair of vivacious lovers. Such an image is known as a memento mori (reminder of death), as it encourages one to reflect on the transience of life. #skeleton