CIHA 2016 in Beijing

34th World Congress of Art History

About History Press Release Sessions Schedule Activities Participants Venue Discussion Registration Closed


That Beautiful Funny Thing: A Critical Survey on Aesthetic Funeral Visual Art in Mexico

Session 19 History of Beauty vs. History of Art

École des Hautes Études en Sciences Sociales,Universidad Autónoma de Chiapas


This proposal focuses on the cultural exchangesand the artistic evolution ofDeath and some burial situations held in Mexico, particularly since the 19th century.


As a prevailing theme since at least that time(considered as theRomantic era in Mexico), the “necrophilia obsession”was leveraged by 20thcentury intellectual elitesas away to express thenew Mexican NationalistAesthetic.Over time, wars, diseases and sociopolitical changes shapeda mortuary iconography displaying feelings and attitudes before Death intended to showthe “uniqueness” of Mexican people. Nevertheless, the over-aestheticization of Death and especially of some burial images from rural Mexican areas became a mean to mute popular distress and to dissimulate underlying social injustices. Thus, in questioning the belief about Mexicans as a people who are not afraid of Death and suffering, as nationalist ideologyenthusiastically claims, may we remembera verse written by Emily Dickinson (1830-1886): “I died for Beauty, but was Scarce”.