Still Life with a Skull and a Writing Quill

Pieter Claesz Dutch

On view at The Met Fifth Avenue in Gallery 520

In this still life, close observation and realistic detail operate in tension with explicit symbolism. The toppled glass, gap-toothed skull, and guttering wick of an oil lamp all serve as stark symbols of life’s brevity. Working with a limited palette of grays and browns, Claesz carefully describes the surfaces of these unsettling objects. By arranging them on a pitted stone ledge, the artist connects the picture’s space to our own, making the message all the more compelling.

#5205. Still Life with a Skull and a Writing Quill

Still Life with a Skull and a Writing Quill, Pieter Claesz (Dutch, Berchem? 1596/97–1660 Haarlem), Oil on wood

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