French, Height 45 mm, circa 1800
An extremely rare watch key "Memento Mori"
Case: gold and patinated ivory, finely sculpted skull, surmounted by a gold crown with nine branches; a high gold collar, like those worn by fashionable 17th century aristocrats, surrounds the base of the skull.
Memento mori (Latin: "remember (that you have) to die") is the medieval Latin theory and practice of reflection on mortality, especially as a means of considering the vanity of earthly life and the transient nature of all earthly goods and pursuits.
This potent symbol, which attests to the mortality of all human beings may have belonged to a wealthy member of the rising middle class who entertained revolutionary ideas.
Illustrated and described in: "The Keys of Time" by Yves Droz, France 2012, p. 128-129.
Case: very good