The final print in Damien Hirst’s Memento series from 2008, entitled Memento 13 shows an image of one of Hirst’s most iconic works, For The Love Of God from 2007. The sculpture that preceded the Memento series is a diamond-studded skull with a large central stone in the centre of the head.
Explaining why he chose to decorate a human skull with diamonds, Hirst has said: ‘I just thought, What can you pit against death?’ Indeed, the result is both beautiful and astounding in its excessiveness, transforming an image of death into a highly aestheticized object. Alongside this final image of the diamond skull, the Memento series comprises six prints of butterflies and six hyperrealist images of human skulls.
Fascinated with the concept of death, the Memento series acts as a reminder that human existence on earth is transient. The iconography of the skull is indicative of the classic subject of ‘memento mori’, with inspiration drawn from Aztec skulls and the Mexican tradition of decoration and outlook on death. Hirst explains: “You don’t like it, so you disguise it or you decorate it to make it look like something bearable – to such an extent that it becomes something else.”