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In the present depiction of Vanity, as well as in its companion piece (Allegory
of Vanity; KHM, GG, Inv. No. 417), Bramer presents a wide spectrum of
allegorical objects and figures, which keep alive the memory of the transience of all earthly things. Wrapped in a fur cape and adorned with gold jewellery, a woman sitting in a penumbra contemplates her aged face in a mirror. Other luxury articles are spread out carelessly on the table in front of her, while parts of a magnificent suit of armour are scattered on the floor. The picture is enclosed on the right by a number of damaged musical instruments, some propped against the table, some lying on the floor. A lute-player, dressed in black and illuminated by a bright beam of light, marks the top of the triangular composition. In a manner comparable to the slumped figure of the musician, the wood of the instruments appears to have lost its solidity. Beauty, fortune, wartime fame and the sound of an instrument: all of these are ultimately transient and will fall into decay. The painterly realisation is in line with this subject: a musty basic colour prevails. In the 16th and 17th centuries such allegories of Vanity, mostly realised
as still-life or genre paintings, were found mainly in the northern Netherlands
and Germany. © Cäcilia Bischoff, Masterpieces of the Picture Gallery, Vienna 2010

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