Vanitas Still Life

Artist: Jacques de Gheyn II (Netherlandish, Antwerp 1565–1629 The Hague)

Date: 1603

Medium: Oil on wood

Dimensions: 32 1/2 x 21 1/4 in. (82.6 x 54 cm)

Classification: Paintings

Credit Line: Charles B. Curtis, Marquand, Victor Wilbour Memorial, and The Alfred N. Punnett Endowment Funds, 1974

Accession Number: 1974.1

Description

De Gheyn was a wealthy amateur who is best known as a brilliant draftsman, but he also painted and engraved. This panel is generally considered to be the earliest known independent still life painting of a vanitas subject. The skull, large bubble, cut flowers, and smoking urn refer to the brevity of life, while images floating in the bubble—such as a wheel of torture and a leper’s rattle—Spanish coins, and a Dutch medal refer to human folly. The figures flanking the arch above are Democritus and Heraclitus, the laughing and weeping philosophers of ancient Greece.

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