Sunday, April 1, 2012

Vanitas - All the Pretty Skulls

The insomniac  is especially fond of skull paintings, more specifically the genre known as Vanitas that was perfected by the Baroque Dutch Masters in the early 17th century. Vanitas paintings displayed a collection of objects that symbolized the inevitability of death and the impermanence and vanity of earthly pleasures. They included allegorical references to man's mortality such as human skulls, extinguished or guttering candles, watches, hourglasses, decaying flowers or rotting fruit. Not only meant as works of art, they conveyed an important moral message: the trivial pleasures of life shall be permanently brought to an end by DEATH. Nothing like a light-hearted message to add some spice to the artwork.

Following are a few favourites, the insomniac's preference being the ones with big, blowsy flowers as opposed to rotting fruit, feeling that there should be at least a modicum of beauty in a painting bearing such grim revelations.

Hendrick Andriezsoon

Adriaen van Utrecht

Simon Renard de Saint-André

Simon Renard de Saint-André

The following “Self-Portrait with Vanitas Symbols” is from 1651 but with the self-portrait portion omitted, as the insomniac didn't care for it. Call it artistic license, if you will.

David Bailly

Franciscus Gysbrechts

Franciscus Gysbrechts

Pieter Claesz

Nicolas de Largilliere

Currently tossing around the idea of small pocket mirrors with the next two images on the reverse, in keeping with the “transitory nature of beauty” theme. Watch for them soon in the Attic. Seriously. Not even kidding.

Herman Henstenburgh

Herman Henstenburgh

A contemporary Vanitas painting entitled “Non Omnis Moriar”. Nice to see the genre is still alive and well, so to speak ...   

Stephanie Henderson

At this point, an apology for the brevity of this week's post seems to be in order. Three weeks of poring over street maps and inventory lists has apparently sucked the life out of the insomniac. Scatter a few fading flowers and some rotted fruit around her, and she would make an excellent model for her very own Vanitas self-portrait. Neverthless, one wishes to emphasize just how grateful one is to have been re-hired for another three months because moral messages notwithstanding, the insomniac  does relish her earthly pleasures, none of which come cheaply.

Until next time, the insomniac  wishes you nights of blissful sleep filled with pleasant dreams... of all the glorious (but trivial and meaningless, of course) indulgences of life. Goodnight, my pretties.


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