(b. 1612, Delft, d. 1656, Leiden)

Vanitas Still-Life

c. 1640
Oil on panel, 39 x 51 cm
National Gallery, London

In this still-life (An Allegory of the Vanities of Human Life) the sharp beam of light emanating from the upper left draw's the viewer's attention to the human skull placed in the centre. Surrounded by an array of objects, it rests on a recorder with an incised letter A. The prominence of the skull, together with an array of vanitas objects such as the watch and extinguished oil lamp, suggest that the painting is what traditionally has been labeled a vanitas still-life. It reminds the viewer of the transience of human life and the ultimate futility of all human endeavours and worldly possessions, which here are represented by the books (knowledge), the musical instruments (pleasure), the sword (power and wealth), and the seashell (wealth). The skull refers directly to death.

© Web Gallery of Art, created by Emil Krén and Daniel Marx.