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Vanitas Still Life with a Portrait of the Painter

Vincent Laurensz van der Vinne1655/1665

Frans Hals Museum

Frans Hals Museum
Haarlem, Netherlands

This creates a rather untidy impression. A great many different objects lie piled up on a table – they are all Vanitas symbols. A large, battered book, a celestial globe and other scientific instruments, including compasses, a pair of spectacles and a urinal, point to the imperfection and transience of human knowledge. A lute and two flutes remind the viewer that music gives only fleeting pleasure. The painting also contains several symbols that refer more generally to mortality, such as the hourglass, bubbles and a death’s head. The death’s head is crowned with a laurel wreath and the legend reads in translation, ‘the end crowns the work’.
Over the edge of the table hangs a sheet of paper bearing the likeness of the artist himself. This drawing, made by his friend Leendert van der Cooghen, still exists. By adding his own portrait to a Vanitas still life, Vincent van der Vinne gives his painting an additional message: everything that is earthly and human is transient, but art is eternal and the artist is immortalized by his art.

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