"The first skull portrait was at the age of 20 - it was a self-portrait made in 1995 and based on a full frontal transparent x-ray - radiograph of my skull. It was an investigation into who I am as a person beyond the facade. Growing up I developed a relationship with mortality due to constant exposure to and high risk of death from my father's profession as a racing driver. I also wished to establish my own identity on my own terms within a family of strong characters. Since then I have made 6 different 'skull portraits' series and have exhibited these pieces quite extensively. 

Originally I made the skull portraits as a way to explore identity - independent of the ways we normally define identity - the face, the gender, the age, the skin colour etc. It was a way to show who the subject is inside beyond these facets. It led into a spiritual contemplation about life's meaning. 

The theme of identity also extends beyond our mortal life - our identity is something that can continue in the minds of the living, some believe the departed are still present in our mortal world or we can impact their soul in the "after-life". The skull is the longest lasting remains of the body where you can recognise the visual uniqueness of the subject. Its a metaphor of the subject's presence after their mortal passing. The pieces fall within the 'Vanitas' tradition, a way of exploring mortality in a way to motivate us to live the richest life we can.

Each subject's journey to become a skull portrait is unique. I've done some very interesting people over the years, billionaires, royalty, famous families, sports stars and more personal ones of people who have been very important to me in my life. 

The most recent Medici Family series is the first time mortal remains of many generations have been presented as a cohesive group, thereby giving the opportunity to explore the notion identity as relates to family and identification with a family name. They also give the chance to explore the theme of legacy in art, especially in relation to patronage of the arts. 

Its the first time I incorporated (painted) texts into the portraits based on the subjects character and the first series with auras and also printed on metal sheet.

Alexander de Cadenet     2022

"In his skull portraits, de Cadenet is using modern art language and processes to communicate the vital spiritual teaching of death in a way that is relevant to our time"

Patrick Howe, author of 'The Awakened Artist', in Watkins Mind Body Spirit Magazine.

"The skull portraits tackle both the the idea of mortality and also the question of how we construe human identity"

Edward Lucie-Smith, 2016


"De Cadenet’s Skull Portraits re-energise the long histories of the painted vanitas….There is a ghoulish humour in de Cadenet’s jest with the skull image: these will persist, of course long after we become crematorium dust"

Sarah Wilson, professor at The Courtauld Institute of Art, (2010)

"De Cadenet made art which to some extent parodied the celebrity world which he inhabited"

Harriet Mueller in 'Art of England'