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  • Topic: Vanitas, Still life, Memento mori
  • Pages : 2 (694 words )
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  • Published : May 22, 2008
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Vanitas is a type of still life painting that was commonly replicated in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries. The Vulgate, which is the Latin translation of the Bible, reads Vanitas vanitatum omnia vanitas which is translated into “utterly meaningless! Everything is meaningless,” or, “Vanity of vanities; all is vanity.” The word is Latin and alone means “emptiness” and the painting refers to arts, learning and time. In essence, Vanitas represents the meaninglessness of life and evanescence of vanity.

For my project I decided to create my own rendition of the Vanitas painting. Since I’m no good at painting however, I recreated it as a photograph. With the skulls as a reminder of the certainty of death, the candle for smoke, symbolizing the brevity of life, the fruit (rotten fruit) representing decay and ageing, and the broken clarinet for the ephemeral nature of entertainment and luxury. Each symbol shows that death is the equalizer in judgment.

During the scene where Hamlet is speaking to Yorick’s skull, he makes a comparison between his memory of the man, and his now grim remains. This in itself is an embodiment of the theme of Vanitas by saying that death is unavoidable and that the materials of life are frivolous. In his whole speech, he covers different aspects of the theme, the first when he says “Now get you to my lady’s chamber, and tell her, let her paint an inch thick, to this favour she must come. Make her laugh at that”. He’s asked the skull to find a fine woman, who bases life around materialistic things, because in this moment, he sees the meaninglessness of life, and especially its luxuries. He sees the necessity of intellectualism for this idea when he says “Make her laugh at that”. It’s a somber but realistic outlook because to eternity, it doesn’t matter how much you have or what it all costs, you cannot take it with you to the grave, and all vanity is foolish.

Following his speech, Hamlet reflects again on...
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