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The ‘Vanitas' Piece in Dutch and Flemish Seventeenth-Century Painting
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The ‘Vanitas' Piece in Dutch and Flemish Seventeenth-Century Painting

(Christopher Wright) The Low Countries - 1997, № 5, pp. 164-171

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The Vanitas piece as an individual genre is an integral part of the richness and variety of Low Countries art. But while isolated works are much admired, the genre as a whole has attracted relatively little attention. There has been no exhibition devoted to the Dutch Vanitas piece since the ‘Vanity of Vanities' (IJdelheid der IJdelheden) held at Leiden in 1970 and there seems never to have been a show devoted to the Flemish Vanitas piece. This is in strong contrast to the enormous interest shown in still life as a whole, which has seen many different aspects explored both in exhibitions and individual studies. It is a paradox of our times that so many people can find themselves in tune with the meaning and emotion of a Rembrandt, or uplifted by the Baroque ecstasy of a Rubens, but they still cannot take the homespun moral of the simple Vanitas piece.

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