Mexican prints for the dead

Calaveras are humorous epitaphs, written, illustrated and produced for the Mexican Day of the Dead – that rather surreal celebration of mortality.

Untitled, by Manuel Manilla
Calavera of the Revolutionary, by JG Posada

Traditionally a calavera (which means skull in Spanish) would be produced for a friend or celebrity while they were still alive, and sold during the festival along with other artefacts such a skeletal toys or sweets.

Slander Punished - A Cautionary Tale, by JG Posada
Untitled, by Manuel Manilla

However, cartoonists José Guadalupe Posada and Manuel Manilla, both operating in the late-19th century, extended the calavera even further, using the medium to expose hypocrisy in Mexican society and reflect on the absurdity of the human condition.

Untitled, by Manuel Manilla
Don Chepito contemplates the skulls of friends and relatives, by JG Posada

Their work, which was much admired by Surrealist artists, is brought together in new book Mexico Macabre: Prints for the Day of the Dead.

Detail from Calaverita Cupletista, by JG Posada
Detail from Calaverita Cupletista, by JG Posada

The book presents 22 works by Posada and Manilla as large format postcards, which can be torn out to send to your death-obsessed friends.

Slander Punished - A Cautionary Tale, by JG Posada
Detail from Calavera de don Folias y Negrito, by JG Posada

The book is published by Redstone Press on 2 November, which is, of course, the Day of the Dead.

Detail from Calaverita Cupletista, by JG Posada
Slander Punished – A Cautionary Tale, by JG Posada

Mexico Macabre: Prints for the Day of the Dead, is published by Redstone Press on 2 November, priced at £9.95. For more details visit www.theredstoneshop.com.

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