PEREDA, Antonio de
(b. 1611, Valladolid, d. 1678, Madrid)

The Knight's Dream

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Oil on wood, 152 x 217 cm
Museo de la Real Academia de San Fernando, Madrid

The repertoire of objects in a vanitas still-life is confined to external power symbols: crowns - including the papal tiara and mitres, as well as kingly crowns - and a knight's armour were always part of such still-lifes, as was the globe as a symbol of worldwide expansion and a craving for conquests. These 'elements of vanity' are of central importance in this painting by Pereda.

A young nobleman has fallen asleep in an armchair on the left, his head, pale with sleep, supported by one hand. The content of his dream - the world and its vanity - is displayed on the table on the right, against a pitch-black background. Other objects of vanity, apart from the power insignia mentioned above, are books, music, coins, jewellery, weapons and a mask (as a symbol of Thalia - the theatre). These are all considered futile. Transience is symbolized by two skulls - one of them rolled over so that we can see inside - as well as by a burnt candle and a clock. The flowers in the vase, too, are symbols of vanity. A winged angelic creature has come flying to the scene, opening up a banner which reads 'Aeterne pungit, cito volat et occidit.