This enchanting 19th-century vanitas depicts an arrangement of 17th-century objects including a globe, books, pearl necklace, silver goblet and pistol. It’s strangely alluring and skillfully rendered.
Vanitas still lifes convey a sense of life’s mortality and the worthlessness of material pleasures. They often include direct references to decay, such as skulls and rotting fruit, but may also include books, wine and other ephemera. The term itself originates from the Book of Ecclesiastes in the Bible: ‘Vanity of vanities, saith the Preacher, vanity of vanities, all is vanity.’
Dutch artist, Edwaert Collier (c.1640-1708), is recognised as one of the masters of this genre and this painting is possibly after one of his works. He often included globes, open books and pearls draped on the edge of tables - with each object carrying a symbolic hidden meaning.
Can you imagine what these could be?
Signed ‘A Matzner’ in the lower left and framed.
Medium: Oil on canvas
Overall size: 21½” x 19” / 55cm x 48cm
Year of creation: c. 1850
Condition: Artwork presents well. Craquelure but the paint is stable. Canvas relined. Frame with some light wear.