Iconic books are texts revered as objects of power rather than just as words of instruction, information, or insight. In religious and secular rituals around the globe, people carry, show, wave, touch and kiss books and other texts, as well as read them. This blog chronicles such events and activities. (For more about iconic books, see the links to the Iconic Books Project at left.)

Friday, October 12, 2007

Prince Harry Sculpture

American sculptor Daniel Edwards, known for his controversial works depicting Britney Spears giving birth and Paris Hilton undergoing an autopsy, includes a Bible in his latest sculpture. Iraq War Memorial: Death of Prince Harry depicts the prince with his head resting on a Bible. The iconic value of the book is strong here, as this is a Bible that cannot be opened, read, studied, or performed, but it is poignantly associated with death and political commentary.

I am curious about the ritual this artist is portraying, and I would appreciate comments on it. Plutarch mentions that Alexander the Great kept a copy of the Iliad beneath his bed when he was on campaign, so there is a long precedent for keeping one's favorite text nearby, but I'd like to know if this is done in funeral or burial rituals. Does any funeral practice (past or present, any culture) really include using scripture in this manner or is this an artistic trope?

1 comment:

Jim Watts said...

I’ve heard of putting a favorite Bible in the coffin, also of putting a Bible under a pillow to ward off nightmares while sleeping, but not this precise configuration. Of course, stylized books (do they represent bibles or the heavenly “book of life”?) are a frequent motif on tombstones.