This ink wash sketch of a skull is based upon one of the hundreds of photographs that I took of the skulls in the Catacombs below the streets of Paris, when I visited the city a few years ago with my patient travelling companion, the art journalist and art magazine editor, Holly Howe (when we were houseboat and cat-sitting for the talented artist, Kate MccGuire). I say patient because, after an hour or so of us wondering around the catacombs, Holly, knowing how fascinated I am by skulls, said 'I'm gonna pop back put to street level, but you take as long as you want down here - I'll see you when you're finished'. Needless to say, she didn't see me again for another three hours.
From what I gather, in 1786, the city (because of the overflowing nature of its cemeteries) condemned all existing parish cemeteries within the city limits and started emptying them. All the bones were then transported (mostly at night, in covered wagons, so as not to provoke protests from the general population) and staked, 5 stories underground, in Paris' ancient stone quarries.