Vanitas: characteristics and origin of this artistic genre –

How we know the world and its history are changing and evolving with the passage of time and the events that occur, and it could not happen otherwise in the world of art. Although not much is known now, the vanitas style was one of the most important and brought us great works of art today, many of them exhibited in the best museums in the world.

What is vanitas art and features

In fine art, the term “still painting” (derived from the Dutch word “Stilleven”) refers to a general type of painting, usually consisting of an arrangement of inanimate objects arranged on a surface. Traditionally, still lifes depicted flowers, fruit, toys, vases, or kitchen utensils, but today almost any object or group of objects can be included in an image. The term “vanitas” describes a specific type of still image. We can define a vanitas as “a still-living painting of symbolic objects that conveys a biblical or Christian message about the temporality of annihilation versus the permanence of Christian values.”

This Christian art form was refined by Dutch realist artists during the Dutch Golden Age of the early 17th century, as a reaction to Roman Catholicism and Counter-Reformation Catholic art. Europe. Vanitas paintings, which flourished between 1620 and 1650, became especially popular among wealthy Protestant citizens of the Netherlands, following the country’s revolt against Dutch colonial rule.

Origin of the genus vanitas

The vanitas is a genre of still life or still life, very typical of the baroque. It is a representation of the transitory time of life, transitory time, middle matter and earthly pleasures. fragility of existence. The Latin phrase from which it derives is “Vanitas vanitatum omnia vanitas”, which means “everything is vanity”. It is meaningless in a trivial and empty sense (for this we still have the expression “it is useless” to this day). The concept of vanitas has been used for two purposes: to encourage the enjoyment of the moment (“carpe diem”, live all day); Or a thought of not “wasting” life on the things of the world without nourishing the soul, without preparing us for the hereafter.

Vanitas are often painted with subtle realism (consider that still lifes in general are embraced by artists because being a static model allows for work with realistic detail and light effects. Brilliant).
And the things that make it all are iconic. They represent, along with death and the brevity of life, all wealth, beauty, knowledge and other earthly pleasures that will soon end.

This is why we will often find skulls, burning candles, soap bubbles, watches, rotten fruit, withered flowers, drinks, musical instruments, books, weapons and jewelry.

Main artists of the vanitas genre

Within this genre, were some of the most important artists of our time.

Anthony Pereda

In Spain, this genre was widely formed from the second third of the seventeenth century. One of the most important paintings of this type is that of the painter Antonio de Pereda (1611-1678). The painting is called El Sueño del Caballero or Desengaño del mundo, and today it is in the Academia de San Fernando in Madrid. The painting will be painted sometime between 1655 and 1670. As a curiosity, we can say that some historians deny that this painting is the work of Antonio de Pereda, but until the contrary is proven, paternity will belong to this artist. The theme of sleep is deeply rooted in baroque culture and literature. Specifically, in this image it will symbolize that the gentleman is sleeping because he leads a luxurious and deceitful life. But the reality is different, the hard truth that all these worldly wonders come to an end and when we die we cannot take them with us. Descartes commented on his hypothesis about systematic skepticism, about the possibility that man can be deceived in his senses by being awake or asleep.

Juan de Valdes Leal

Another painter who stood out in the Vanitas in Spain was Juan de Valdés Leal (1622-1690). This painter made his masterpiece in Seville. In addition to Murillo (1617-1682), he is considered the most representative painter of the Spanish Baroque school of the last third of the 17th century. Murillo and Valdés Lille were rivals, Murillo being loved by the public. But we can say that both have completely different styles. Murillo is a painter who always looks for the bright side of life, his colors are warm and although the theme of the composition is tragic, he treats it in a colorful and warm way. On the other hand, Valdés Lille is a painter who loves tragedy and drama, and his works by him have a bleak impression.

Calderon de la Barca

But the Spanish author addresses these issues in more depth, and the one who influenced Pereda’s work is undoubtedly the Spanish playwright Pedro Calderón de la Barca, who created a play called Life is a Dream in 1635. In this book, the The author shows us how the hero of his novel torments thoughts of freedom and destiny and how, in the end, Sigismondo considers that the meaning of life is only a fantasy or a dream. Stylistically, the painting is in keeping with the Baroque style. The naturalness of the faces, the quality of the materials and the technique of the puzzle are great. This technique was invented by the Italian painter Caravaggio. It involves aggressively lighting subjects closest to the viewer and leaving the background in shadow or semi-dark. Using this technique, a mysterious and theatrical atmosphere of painting was created, which is characteristic of the Baroque movement. In this case, he wanted to confuse the viewer, creating a mystical and supernatural space.