Vanitas Still Life

This painting belongs to the category of vanitas still lifes, which contain objects intended to cause the viewer to reflect on the inevitability of mortality and the consequent foolishness of all human ambition. They include a skull wreathed in straw, an hourglass, an extinguished pipe and tapers, musical instruments (a flute, a viol and bow), a black lacquer box and a Rhenish stoneware jug (both collectors' items), a book of music and a drawing, a shell and a straw used for blowing bubbles, and a helmet. The title-page is of a play by Theodore Rodenburgh (about 1578 - 1644) which was published in Amsterdam in 1618; it can be translated into English as 'Evil is its own reward'.

Key facts

Artist
Artist dates
1605/6 - 1652
Full title
Vanitas Still Life
Date made
1648
Medium and support
Oil on oak
Dimensions
90.5 x 78.4 cm
Inscription summary
Signed; Dated
Acquisition credit
Presented by Anthony N. Sturt and his wife Marjorie, 1991
Inventory number
NG6533
Location in Gallery