Vanity Paintings

A genre of still life paintings that thrived in the Netherlands around the early 17th century. These paintings included a still life array of items related to death and the existentialism of humans.


Harmen Steenwyck, “Still Life: an Allegory of the Vanities of Human Life”

These paintings often showed the vanity of accomplishments people made to earth and the grand scheme of life. Often painted on the back of portraits as still lifes commonly including skulls, and items commonly used to show vanity.

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Jean-Konrad Mignon

These vanity paintings also included scientific items like books, maps and compasses along with the scientific came items of wealth and power coins and jewels, and finally pleasurable items like goblets for wine, pipes and playing cards.

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Willem Claesz Heda, Still life