In many modern cemeteries the spectre of death is all but erased from our visual field. Unlike older cemeteries, it is rare to see depictions of death, whether it be skull and crossbones, skeletons, and other macabre symbols. Yet one of the most spectacular monuments I have ever come across is the Kiss of Death, in Barcelona’s Polenou Cemetery.

The sculpture is a bit unusual in that it depicts a winged skeleton, rather than a more typical angel, in giving the kiss of death to a beautiful young man. The young man seems to relish the kiss, or is perhaps resigned to it; it seems to elicit various reactions as a result.

The Kiss of Death
Side view of the kiss

I remember seeing this statue in images online long ago and wanting to go to Barcelona specifically to photograph it. Yet when I finally made it to the cemetery I nearly missed it as it is in a smaller walled off area to the northeast. My first visit here was bright and sunny, I came back the next day which provided some nice soft light due to the overcast weather. I think this really allows the softness of the stone and the incredible details to shine through.

The grave belongs to Josep Llaudet Soler, a textile manufacturer. It was created in 1930 by sculptor J. Barga, although there appears to be some debate as to the inspiration. There is an inscription in the tomb underneath that says:

“His young heart is thus extinguished. The blood in his veins grows cold. And all strength has gone. Faith has been extolled by his fall into the arms of death. Amen.”


Site: Cementiri de Poblenou / Cementiri de l’Este, Barcelona