Artatomical: Wiertz's Premature Burial

'L'Inhumation Precipitee' by Antoine Wiertz Wikimedia Commons

Here's a wonderful artatomical work for your Tuesday: 'L'Inhumation Precipitee' or 'The Premature Burial' by Belgian artist Antoine Wiertz (1806 - 1865).

(Wikimedia Commons)

Despite its Gothic, perhaps even Poe-inspired horror, the 1854 piece is actually rooted in the natural world rather than the supernatural. No vampires here, I'm afraid.

See, as discussed in "How Coffins Work," the 19th century cholera epidemic really put the fear in us. In order to prevent the disease's spread, we buried cholera victims every quickly -- hastily, even. Some of the victims weren't quite dead yet, fueling widespread taphophobia: the fear of being buried alive.

It's a perfect subject for Wiertz, who was much consumed by eroticism and morbidity. Just consider the overt 1847 memento mori located above right: Deux jeunes filles (La Belle Rosine).

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.