Death, Third of the Four Sights seen by Prince Siddhartha

About this work of art

Audio description of the work of art

This sculpture comprises 3 distinct elements: a corpse, two crows and a vulture. The body, with crows, is 90cm long x 38cm high x 48cm wide. A vulture tearing at the meat of the body’s right foot is 24cm long x 36cm high x 16cm wide.  

Death, the third of four sights seen by Prince Siddhartha comprises a corpulent corpse in a state of decomposition, bloated and lying down. 

The small wooden body and birds invites consideration without overwhelming revulsion. Pale and yellowish, his swollen head rests atop two chins, the weight of the head propped up by a once-white, small, rectangular pillow. There are bloodstains on the pillow below the left, fleshy ear. 

A hair piece has been removed from the top of the figures head and a line of round-tipped nails journey in a neat row from ear, across the high forehead, to ear. 

The figures face is cracked and marred; a thick welt of a worry line between his bugling, open eyes. Blood that once oozed from his left eyeball has dried in a path ending at his right ear. Beneath a bulbous nose, a slack and swollen tongue protrudes, lolling to the left. A crow, frozen mid-peck, seeks the meat from inside the man’s right cheek. Blood trickles in a thick painted line into a chin fold. 

Above white, carved, round nipples the crow’s feet are etched into the wood of the figure’s chest. The figure’s carved, tubular arms rest by his sides and there is a stepped cut in the wood above each elbow, as though the lower arms and hands are made from another piece of wood. Above the stepped cut on the body’s left arm is a long crack from age and wear. 

A second carved crow looks up and out. The crow is black with markings to define shorter feathers at it’s chest; and long lines carved into the pointed rear half suggest wing feathers. The crow’s bloodied feet stand on the corpse, it’s thin wire legs rising up from the figure to join it’s darkly painted body. 

A waist wrap (thick, carved strip of dirty, almost creaseless) once-white material serves to cover the corpse, from mid belly to mid-thigh. Tattoos of square patterns with rounded edges repeat, traveling around the knee on both legs, with squiggles and dotted lines. They cover his knees and lead down to trunk-like calves and swollen feet with neatly rendered toenails. 

Just below beyond his feet – within its mouth a morsel the same colour as the cadaver- is a vulture, its talons wrapped around an oblong, grey perch. The vulture’s head and nape curve into an ‘S’, the bird is concentrating on its task. It hunches, bending low, giving its wings definition and shape. It’s wing tips meet and neat, curved lines suggest wing feathers. Small, arched indentations depict other plumage. 

As a result of time, the figure’s smooth, painted surface is well worn and displays a patina. A close look reveals the anonymous artist’s brushstrokes which contrast the pattern of the woodgrain at the left arm, and below the white cloth carved into the body, and on his left inner thigh,- a process of decay continuing, befitting the sculpture’s theme.