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A vanitas is a symbolic work of art showing the transience of life, the futility of pleasure, and the certainty of death, often contrasting symbols of wealth and symbols of ephemerality and death. Best-known are vanitas still lifes, a common genre in Netherlandish art of the 16th and 17th centuries; they have also been created at other times and in other media and genres.
In philosophy, temporality is traditionally the linear progression of past, present, and future. However, some modern-century philosophers have interpreted temporality in ways other than this linear manner. Examples would be McTaggart's The Unreality of Time, Husserl's analysis of internal time consciousness, Martin Heidegger's Being and Time (1927), George Herbert Mead's Philosophy of the Present (1932), and Jacques Derrida's criticisms of Husserl's analysis, as well as Nietzsche's eternal return of the same, though this latter pertains more to historicity, to which temporality gives rise.
Ephemerality is the concept of things being transitory, existing only briefly. Typically the term ephemeral is used to describe objects found in nature, although it can describe a wide range of things, including human artifacts intentionally made to last for only a temporary period, in order to increase their perceived aesthetic value. With respect to unique performances, for example, it has been noted that "[e]phemerality is a quality caused by the ebb and flow of the crowd's concentration on the performance and a reflection of the nostalgic character of specific performances". Because different people may value the passage of time differently, "the concept of ephemerality is a relative one".
A still life is a work of art depicting mostly inanimate subject matter, typically commonplace objects which are either natural or man-made.
The Latin noun vanitas (from the Latin adjective vanus 'empty') means 'emptiness', 'futility', or 'worthlessness', the traditional Christian view being that earthly goods and pursuits are transient and worthless. 1:2; 12:8 , where vanitas translates the Hebrew word hevel, which also includes the concept of transitoriness.It alludes to Ecclesiastes
Latin is a classical language belonging to the Italic branch of the Indo-European languages. The Latin alphabet is derived from the Etruscan and Greek alphabets and ultimately from the Phoenician alphabet.
Ecclesiastes is one of 24 books of the Tanakh or Hebrew Bible, where it is classified as one of the Ketuvim. Originally written c. 450–200 BCE, it is also among the canonical Wisdom Books in the Old Testament of most denominations of Christianity. The title Ecclesiastes is a Latin transliteration of the Greek translation of the Hebrew Kohelet, the pseudonym used by the author of the book.
Vanitas themes were common in medieval funerary art, with most surviving examples in sculpture. By the 15th century, these could be extremely morbid and explicit, reflecting an increased obsession with death and decay also seen in the Ars moriendi, the Danse Macabre , and the overlapping motif of the Memento mori. From the Renaissance such motifs gradually became more indirect and, as the still-life genre became popular, found a home there. Paintings executed in the vanitas style were meant to remind viewers of the transience of life, the futility of pleasure, and the certainty of death. They also provided a moral justification for painting attractive objects .
The Ars moriendi are two related Latin texts dating from about 1415 and 1450 which offer advice on the protocols and procedures of a good death, explaining how to "die well" according to Christian precepts of the late Middle Ages. It was written within the historical context of the effects of the macabre horrors of the Black Death 60 years earlier and consequent social upheavals of the 15th century. It was very popular, translated into most West European languages, and was the first in a western literary tradition of guides to death and dying. About 50,000 copies were printed in the incunabula period before 1501.
The Danse Macabre, also called the Dance of Death, is an artistic genre of allegory of the Late Middle Ages on the universality of death: no matter one's station in life, the Dance Macabre unites all.
Memento mori is the medieval Latin Christian theory and practice of reflection on mortality, especially as a means of considering the vanity of earthly life and the transient nature of all earthly goods and pursuits. It is related to the ars moriendi and similar Western literature. Memento mori has been an important part of ascetic disciplines as a means of perfecting the character by cultivating detachment and other virtues, and by turning the attention towards the immortality of the soul and the afterlife.
Common vanitas symbols include skulls, which are a reminder of the certainty of death; rotten fruit (decay); bubbles (the brevity of life and suddenness of death); smoke, watches, and hourglasses (the brevity of life); and musical instruments (brevity and the ephemeral nature of life). Fruit, flowers and butterflies can be interpreted in the same way, and a peeled lemon was, like life, attractive to look at but bitter to taste. Art historians debate how much, and how seriously, the vanitas theme is implied in still-life paintings without explicit imagery such as a skull. As in much moralistic genre painting, the enjoyment evoked by the sensuous depiction of the subject is in a certain conflict with the moralistic message.
Composition of flowers is a less obvious style of Vanitas by Abraham Mignon in the National Museum, Warsaw. Barely visible amid vivid and perilous nature (snakes, poisonous mushrooms), a bird skeleton is a symbol of vanity and shortness of life.
Abraham Mignon or Minjon, was a still life painter. He is known for his flower pieces, still lifes with fruit, still lifes in forests or grotto as well as still lifes of game and fish and garland paintings. His works are influenced by those of Jan Davidszoon de Heem and Jacob Marrel.
The National Museum in Warsaw, popularly abbreviated as MNW, is a national museum in Warsaw, one of the largest museums in Poland and the largest in the capital. It comprises a rich collection of ancient art, counting about 11,000 pieces, an extensive gallery of Polish painting since the 16th century and a collection of foreign painting including some paintings from Adolf Hitler's private collection, ceded to the Museum by the American authorities in post-war Germany. The museum is also home to numismatic collections, a gallery of applied arts and a department of oriental art, with the largest collection of Chinese art in Poland, comprising some 5,000 objects.
Robert Schumann was a German composer, pianist, and influential music critic. He is widely regarded as one of the greatest composers of the Romantic era. Schumann left the study of law, intending to pursue a career as a virtuoso pianist. His teacher, Friedrich Wieck, a German pianist, had assured him that he could become the finest pianist in Europe, but a hand injury ended this dream. Schumann then focused his musical energies on composing.
An oratorio is a large musical composition for orchestra, choir, and soloists. Like most operas, an oratorio includes the use of a choir, soloists, an instrumental ensemble, various distinguishable characters, and arias. However, opera is musical theatre, while oratorio is strictly a concert piece – though oratorios are sometimes staged as operas, and operas are sometimes presented in concert form. In an oratorio the choir often plays a central role, and there is generally little or no interaction between the characters, and no props or elaborate costumes. A particularly important difference is in the typical subject matter of the text. Opera tends to deal with history and mythology, including age-old devices of romance, deception, and murder, whereas the plot of an oratorio often deals with sacred topics, making it appropriate for performance in the church. Protestant composers took their stories from the Bible, while Catholic composers looked to the lives of saints, as well as to Biblical topics. Oratorios became extremely popular in early 17th-century Italy partly because of the success of opera and the Catholic Church's prohibition of spectacles during Lent. Oratorios became the main choice of music during that period for opera audiences.
Giacomo Carissimi was an Italian composer and music teacher. He is one of the most celebrated masters of the early Baroque or, more accurately, the Roman School of music. Carissimi established the characteristic features of the Latin oratorio and was a prolific composer of motets and cantatas. He was highly influential in musical developments in north European countries through his pupils and the wide dissemination of his music.
Vanity is the excessive belief in one's own abilities or attractiveness to others. Prior to the 14th century it did not have such narcissistic undertones, and merely meant futility. The related term vainglory is now often seen as an archaic synonym for vanity, but originally meant boasting in vain, i.e. unjustified boasting; although glory is now seen as having a predominantly positive meaning, the Latin term from which it derives, gloria, roughly means boasting, and was often used as a negative criticism.
Jan Davidsz. de Heem or in-full Jan Davidszoon de Heem, also called Johannes de Heem or Johannes van Antwerpen or Jan Davidsz de Hem, was a still life painter who was active in Utrecht and Antwerp. He is a major representative of that genre in both Dutch and Flemish Baroque painting.
Jan van der Heyden was a Dutch Baroque-era painter, glass painter, draughtsman and printmaker. Van der Heyden was one of the first Dutch painters to specialize in townscapes and became one of the leading architectural painters of the Dutch Golden Age. He painted a number of still lifes in the beginning and at the end of his career.
Charles Allan Gilbert, better known as C. Allan Gilbert, was a prominent American illustrator. He is especially remembered for a widely published drawing titled All Is Vanity. The drawing employs a double image in which the scene of a woman admiring herself in a mirror, when viewed from a distance, appears to be a human skull. The title is also a pun, as this type of dressing-table is also known as a vanity. The phrase "All is vanity" comes from Ecclesiastes 1:2 It refers to the vanity and pride of humans. In art, vanity has long been represented as a woman preoccupied with her beauty. And art that contains a human skull as a focal point is called a memento mori, a work that reminds people of their mortality.
Maria van Oosterwijck, also spelled Oosterwyck, (1630–1693) was a Dutch Golden Age painter, specializing in richly detailed flower paintings and other still lifes.
Death and the Miser is a Hieronymus Bosch painting. It is currently in the National Gallery of Art in Washington, D.C. The painting is the inside of the right panel of a divided triptych. The other existing portions of the triptych are The Ship of Fools and Allegory of Gluttony and Lust, while The Wayfarer was painted on the external right panel.
Cornelis Norbertus Gijsbrechts or Gysbrechts was a Flemish painter working in Belgium, Germany, Denmark and Sweden in the second half of the seventeenth century. He specialised in trompe-l'œil, an artistic genre aiming to trick contemporary viewers into believing that the painted, two-dimensional illusions were real three-dimensional objects.
Hendrick Andriessen, known as Mancken Heyn was a Flemish still-life painter. He is known for his vanitas still lifes, which are made up of objects referencing the precariousness of life, and 'smoker' still lifes, which depict smoking utensils. The artist worked in Antwerp and likely also in the Dutch Republic.
Joris van Son or Georg van Son was a Flemish still life painter who worked in a number of sub-genres but is principally known for his fruit still lifes. He also created flower still lifes, banquet still lifes, vanitas still lifes and pronkstillevens. He is known to have painted fish still lifes representing the Four Elements. He collaborated with figure artists on ‘garland paintings’, which typically represent a devotional image framed by a fruit or flower garland.
Skull symbolism is the attachment of symbolic meaning to the human skull. The most common symbolic use of the skull is as a representation of death and mortality.
Carstian Luyckx, also known as the Monogrammist KL, was a Flemish painter and draughtsman who specialized in still lifes in various subgenres including flower still lifes, fruit still lifes, fish still lifes, pronkstillevens, vanitas still lifes, hunting pieces and garland paintings. He also painted animals and a few genre scenes. After starting his career in Antwerp he is believed to have worked later in France.
Jan Pauwel Gillemans the Elder was a Flemish goldsmith and still life painter who is known for his fruit still lifes, flower pieces, vanitas still lifes and pronkstillevens.
Pronkstilleven is a style of ornate still life painting, which was developed in the 1640s in Antwerp from where it spread quickly to the Dutch Republic.
Frans van Everbroeck was a Flemish still life painter who is known for his fruit still lifes, vanitas still lifes and pronkstillevens. He was active in Antwerp, Amsterdam and London.
Peeter Sion or Peter Sion was a Flemish painter of landscapes, history paintings and genre scenes. His work was mainly produced for the export market and dealt with biblical stories.
Joannes de Cordua or Johann de Cordua was a Flemish painter who was mainly active in Vienna and Prague. He is known for his still lifes, peasant scenes, portraits, and biblical themes.
Peter van Kessel or Peeter van Kessel was a Flemish still life painter who worked in a number of sub-genres but is principally known for his flower pieces, game pieces, garland paintings and vanitas paintings. He trained in Antwerp but mainly worked abroad, and in particular in Northern Europe.
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