40 Faces of Death: A Grim Reaper Gallery

Death and Desire
© Heritage Images/Corbis

Here we see a colored woodcut showing the dangers of lust and illicit love, after a symbolic woodcut by 16th-century artist Peter Flotner. We see alcohol assisting seduction in the center, while Death brandishes an hourglass on the left.

I'm particularly fond of Death's depiction in this painting as it maximizes the sense of physical corruption and disease -- a particularly fitting personification given the ravages of sexually-transmitted syphilis at the time. In fact, that's why we chose it as cover art for our podcast episode "Syphilis Through the Ages."

About the Author: Robert Lamb spent his childhood reading books and staring into the woods — first in Newfoundland, Canada and then in rural Tennessee. There was also a long stretch in which he was terrified of alien abduction. He earned a degree in creative writing. He taught high school and then attended journalism school. He wrote for the smallest of small-town newspapers before finally becoming a full-time science writer and podcaster. He’s currently a senior writer at HowStuffWorks and has co-hosted the science podcast Stuff to Blow Your Mind since its inception in 2010. In his spare time, he enjoys traveling with his wife Bonnie, discussing dinosaurs with his son Bastian and crafting the occasional work of fiction.