Explaining Vanitas - Dutch Still Life Paintings

Explaining Vanitas - Dutch Still Life Paintings
The Baroque artist Jacques de Gheyn II is considered the first to paint still life and flower paintings in Holland. He also created some of the earliest female nudes in Dutch art.

Vanitas are Dutch still life paintings from the 16th and 17th centuries. They are a collection of objects that hold symbolic meanings to represent such subjects as: the transience of life, the futility of pleasure and the certainty of death. Sculls are commonly used as a reminder of death.

The Metropolitan Museum in NY owns perhaps the earliest vanitas still life in European painting with Jacques de Gheyn II’s “Vanitas Still Life” (1603).

Jacques (Jacob) de Gheyn II the Elder (1565-1629) was considered the preeminent flower painter of his day. One of his paintings, "Vase of Flowers With a Curtain" (1615) is one of the largest known flower paintings, measuring 43.25" X 29.25". It was purchased by the Kimbell Art Museum in Fort Worth, Texas.

Another Dutch Baroque artist that deserves recognition is the woman artist, Rachel Ruysch (1664-1750). She painted still life and flowers like her predecessors, but instead of painting images that depicted death, she was more of a realist artist, painting leaves that turned brown or insects feeding on a plant.

Rachel Ruysch’s painting, "Rose, Convolvulus, Poppies and Other Flowers in an Urn on a Stone Ledge" can be seen at the National Museum of Women in the Arts, Washington, D.C.

You can own a copy of the book, "Counted Cross Stitch Pattern: Still Life with Flowers," Version I by Rachel Ruysch (The Great Artists Series), available here from Amazon.com.

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