Skeleton painting c.1820

Contributed by Peoples History Museum

Skeleton painting c.1820

As organisations operating on the fringe of the law, trade societies enforced secrecy to exclude employers and government spies. This unique rolled painting with its carrying case, was used to initiate new members with illegal oaths administered with a Bible and pistol. The Tolpuddle Martyrs were prosecuted after asking a sign painter to make them a similar image. The skeleton, sun, moon, hour-glass and scythe were familiar to all working people as symbols of their hard lives and mortality. The painting is believed to originate in the West Midlands, but was discovered in 2004 in Colorado, USA.

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