(b. ca. 1597, Steinfurt, d. 1661, Haarlem)
Oil on canvas, 39,5 x 56 cm
Mauritshuis, The Hague
Nearly all Dutch still-lifes include - to a greater or lesser extent - the aspect of vanitas, a lament about the transience of all things. It is often symbolized by objects such as a skull or a clock, as in this painting, where the effect is enhanced by an overturned wine glass and an extinguished candle. Claesz's metaphysical criticism concentrates on book knowledge and its futility in the face of eternity. The claim of the enlightenment that book contains knowledge, experience and thoughts that were permanently valid beyond the life-span of an individual is met with resigned scepticism. With hues of grey, brown and green that tend to add up to a general 'monochrome' impression, Claesz's still-life was painted at a time when European book market was going through a phase of considerable expansion.