Pieter Claesz, Vanitas Still Life, 1630.
Collection Mauritshuis museum, Den Hague, The Netherlands.
Figure: Mauritshuis museum.
VANITAS: THE STORY
“…when writers die they become books,
which is, after all, not too bad an incarnation.”
Jorge Luis Borges
Vanitas book series is inspired on the seventeenth-century Vanitas still life Dutch paintings. These paintings were a representation of the transience of life as expressed by the Latin phrase memento mori: ‘remember that you must die’ or ‘remember to die’. Their origin has been also related to the Calvinist notion of predestination highly influential during the Dutch Golden Age.
Vanitas genre often represented a series of objects that are believed to have a precise meaning related to the impermanence of life. In these still-lifes, a skull usually rests near a book. The two symbols interact to state that human work transcends human nature.