The mummies of Palermo

Last week a long weekend in Palermo to visit something I have wanted to see ever since I first heard about it – Catacombe dei Cappucini. This extraordinary underground burial chamber contains thousands of mummified bodies, the first mummified in the 16th century, the last in the early twentieth. It is well catalogued in websites, so worth looking on a search engine to see the variety and arrangement of the remains. There are several broad corridors, categorized for the monks, priests, men, women and children. Out of respect and to help preserve the bodies, no photography is allowed, so I spent my time drawing. (Incidentally, I don’t understand why some visitors seem proud of themselves when they manage to flout the no photos request.)  Each mummy has an individual character, and the clothing enhances the differences. It is a truly astonishing and humbling experience to be allowed to see this.

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I have about 25 drawings and some diagrams, so I’m not going to post them all, but these are probably my favourites, the last (below) a marvellously simple form – not quite fully skeletonised and bound in a plain robe.

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The drawings were done in black ballpoint in a small Moleskine sketchbook. (There is  a ghost image in these scans which is the drawing on the next page showing through.)

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