Metaphors We Die By
Around 470 BC a man was buried at Paestum, now in modern Italy, then still part of Greece. His coffin-like…
‘Media Vita in Morte Sumus’ or, ‘One Day We’ll Be on a Slab’
In 1822 Percy Shelley drowned 10 miles off the Italian coast at Viareggio. Some days later he washed ashore, and was cremated on the beach in accordance with quarantine regulations. Louis-Edouard Fournier’s 1889 funeral painting mollifies the facts: Shelley’s corpse looks presentable, whereas it was fleshless; Mary Shelley and Leigh Hunt are pictured mourning, though they did not attend; Byron cuts a dash in his high boots, though in fact he could not face the scene, but waited further up the beach. ‘Everything’, remarks Steve Coogan in Michael Winterbottom’s 2014 film The Trip to Italy, surveying Viareggio with Fournier’s version in hand, ‘looks better in a painting’.