A type of symbolic work of art which was very popular in Flanders and the Netherlands in the 16th and 17th centuries. However, Vanitas have been commonplace in other historical periods.

The Latin word means “vanity” but refers to the transient nature of our lives. When artists depict that they, draw on some references that we all know to be elusive, transient or ephemeral. Artists may incorporate in their art: skulls, decaying flesh, wilting flowers, Turning grapes, chronographs, the contrast between young and old sitters, crash test dummies and skeletons.

example of vanita in art

See also words ‘memento mori‘,‘still life’, plus related articles Dutch golden age painting or Art and death – examining a long-suffering friendship or The seemingly contradictory — as explored by Magnus Gjoen

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