Sunday, 31 May 2015


I love still life paintings. And being Dutch, I especially love the Vanitas paintings. Willem Claeszoon Heda, Jan Davidsz. de Heem, Pieter Cleasz. all Dutch painters from the Dutch "Golden Age" that I love to study their work.


vanitas is Latin for "vanity". The phrase "All is vanity" comes from Ecclesiastes 1:2 (Vanity of vanities, saith the Preacher, vanity of vanities; all is vanity.)

In art it is a genre of still-life painting that flourished in the Netherlands in the early 17th century. A vanitas contains collections of objects symbolic of the inevitability of death and the transience and vanity of earthly achievements and pleasures.

Vanitas paintings certain standard elements: symbols of arts and sciences (books, maps, and musical instruments), wealth and power (purses, jewellery, gold objects), and earthly pleasures (goblets, pipes, and playing cards); symbols of death or transience (skulls, clocks, burning candles, soap bubbles, and flowers); and, sometimes, symbols of resurrection and eternal life (usually ears of corn or sprigs of ivy or laurel).

Vanitas, Vanity? This poem by the talented Elisabeth Mayo says it all:

The word is not a vanitas but vanity

I love you, as a saint
with an aureole of gleaming autumn-burnt hair
an ecstatic shining and bright as the sun,
spilling forth with holy oil
with the face of a white-rose angel from Botticelli's brush,
with the heart of a tar-black demon, a serpent in the fiery bush,
a heavy pink blossom all dripping with honey
a sinuous and serpentine moth-silk scarf, fluttering in the summer air.

and I love you, loving and knowing that
I love you, as a painter
loves a streaked and bright tempura paint
here, sun-kissed as a yellow flower today,
revealing its thin translucent colours the next
and I love you, as one can only love
another who can only love a mirror
whether one made from moon-struck volcanic glass
or drawn from the lips of another.


  1. Hey Han...Thank you for sharing the lovely paintings and poem along with more information regarding how they got their names...never knew that. So much fun to come visit and learn something knew while enjoying beautiful and/or thought provoking content.

    Hugs and blessings...Cat

    1. It's so nice that an artist herself did find my post interesting to read...
      Thank you,


  2. I see,
    Thank you Han.
    Something new for me.
    now I am more clever... Lol

    Mona Lisa

    1. We learn every day Mona Lisa, and if it really sinks in we become a bit more clever every day.

      Thank you for your nice words,


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