Saturday, February 4, 2012

Written messages in Vanitas paintings.

As explained in previous articles, Vanitas paintings were loaded with objects that were symbols. However, almost like if these were not clear enough, the Golden Age Dutch and other painters sometimes placed written messages in their pieces.

These were “memento mori” messages which are Latin for “remember your mortality” or “remember you will die”. The most obvious message was then “Vanitas, vanitatum omnia vanitas” which if you have read my previous articles then you should know it (otherwise click here). The painting in the top left is showing “nemo ante mortem beatus dici potest” No one can be called happy before his death and Sic transit gloria mundi which is Latin for "Thus passes the glory of the world". I used both in the following photo plus some other vanitas symbols like the globe, the dice, cards and writing utensils over a blue velvet tablecloth. 

'Finis coronat opus' - 'the end crowns the work' or - refers to the serene happiness that awaits the pious in afterlife. It is symbolized by the laurel crown resting on the skull. The laurel crown was the highest honor that could be awarded to a Roman general, this main reason why all Roman emperors wore them for festivities.

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