vanitas still life, dirck de horn

At first sight, this is a table laden with a collection of odd objects, but a 17th-century observer would immediately understand what the painter intended to put across with this still life.

The silenced violin, the laurel-wreathed skull as well as the empty seashells are all metaphors of mortality and death triumphing over life.

Vanitas still life, Dirck de Horn, circa 1650

Vanitas still life, Dirck de Horn, circa 1650

In this work the painter also brought a homage to science and art: the two plaster heads and the foot refer to the art of sculpture, the violin refers to music and the globe refers to the science of astronomy. At the same time, the work demonstrates the painter’s skill in making life-like representations of shiny objects, witness the gleaming  gold goblets and the shells.