Full title: Still Life: An Allegory of the Vanities of Human Life.Artist: Harmen Steenwyck.Date made: about 1640.Source: http://www.nationalgalleryimages.co.uk/.Contact: picture.library@nationalgallery.co.uk..Copyright © The National Gallery, London

Still Life: An Allegory of the Vanities of Human Life. Artist: Harmen Steenwyck. 1640.

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A Vanitas painting contains collections of objects symbolic of the inevitability of death and the transience and vanity of earthly achievements and pleasures; it exhorts the viewer to consider mortality and to repent.

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The vast majority are pure still lifes, containing certain standard elements: symbols of arts and sciences (books, maps, and musical instruments), wealth and power (purses, jewelry, gold objects), and earthly pleasures (goblets, pipes, and playing cards); symbols of death or transience (skulls, clocks, burning candles, soap bubbles, and flowers); and, sometimes, symbols of resurrection and eternal life (usually ears of corn or sprigs of ivy or laurel)

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David Bailey

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Cindy Sherman Skull with flowers

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Damien Hirst  "For the Love of God" 2007

Platinum, diamonds and human teeth.  Sold for $100 million.

‘For the Love of God’ acts as a reminder that our existence on earth is transient. Hirst combined the imagery of classic memento mori with inspiration drawn from Aztec skulls and the Mexican love of decoration and attitude towards death. He explains of death: “You don’t like it, so you disguise it or you decorate it to make it look like something bearable – to such an extent that it becomes something else.

 

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Justine Reyes

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Justine Reyes

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Ward Yoshimoto

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Billy Kidd Decaying Flowers 

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The roses can be just as exquisite and captivating even in their decaying state. In some ways, Billy Kidd has breathed new life into them. The roses were captured with every bit of detail and colour against a black background with a single light source.

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Lorenzo Vitturi

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