Many scholars believe that Halloween originated with the ancient Celtic festival of Samhain, which celebrated the end of the harvest season and marked the beginning of winter. During Samhain it was thought that the boundary between this world and the Otherworld was weakened and spirits could easily cross into our realm. Guising, the practice of going door to door in costume, reciting verses, and asking for food, was also a popular activity during the festival. The costumes may have served as a way of hiding oneself from or intimidating the spirits who had crossed over. After the Christian Church shifted the date of All Saint’s Day to the first of November, Samhain and All Saint’s Day merged to form the modern-day Halloween.
The RPM has some spooky works in its collection! Take a look at this Halloween-inspired selection:
Benjamin Foster (American, 1852-1926), Corn Stalks and Pumpkins, c. 1910-1920, oil on canvas, 22 x 18 inches, Museum Purchase, 1933.258.1.
Albrecht Dürer (German, 1471-1528), Not Preparing for Death, 1492, ink on paper, 4 1/2 x 3 1/4 inches, Museum Purchase, 1931.722.1.
Nelson Grofe (American, 1900-1978), Witch Marionette, wood, string, and textiles, Gift, Jerrold Grofe, 1980.636.1.
Jacques Callot (French, 1592-1635), Sanctus Livarius, c. 1624, ink on paper, 4 x 2 7/8 inches, Museum Purchase, 1971.145.1C.
Unknown Maker (American), Ice Cream, Chocolate, Candy, or Butter Mold, early 20th century, pewter, 5 3/8 x 4 5/8 x 2 1/8 inches, Museum Purchase, 1963.169.1.
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