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Italian, A Dead Soldier

Key facts
Full title A Dead Soldier
Artist Italian
Date made 17th century
Medium and support Oil on canvas
Dimensions 104.8 × 167 cm
Acquisition credit Bought, 1865
Inventory number NG741
Location Not on display
Collection Main Collection
A Dead Soldier

A young soldier lies dead in a barren landscape, the sky growing dark around him. A deathly pallor tinges his face and his left hand rests on the hilt of his sword, as if to protect it. His bony, oversized right hand, the colour of decaying flesh, lies prominently on his chest. The man’s armour glints in the fading light, and a silk bow hangs limply from his shoe.

A swirl of blue smoke overhead does little to relieve the sense of melancholy. A lamp hangs from a leafless branch; a breeze has set it swinging and its flame has gone out. A skull and bones lie to the left, while close to the corpse bubbles disturb the surface of a small water pool. These bubbles will soon burst, leaving no trace, and, together with the extinguished flame, they are to be considered vanitas symbols, alluding to the brevity of human life and the suddenness of death.

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