Vanitas is the term used in old Dutch paintings.
Originally Posted by B&Jdude
it is not about death as such - merely the fact that ALL things on earth has its time (except the love of God).
in this kind of imagery, you can put all kinds of symbols in it to make a sort of statement.
if you think about an old painting og flowers, then you'll notice that some of these flowers are dying - that there proberly will be butterflys in the picture - and maybe a snail or two...
it is the eternal fight between Life and Death ot Good and Evil..
quickly there were lots and lots of Vanitas symbols to use (you can make up your own..)
Skull = death (there is a famous painting/drawing of a toddler boy sitting on top of a skull with the text under: "Quis Evadet" (who will excape!)
skull with grain lying on top o fit= Life's victory over death.
Grain= (rye/wheat/oat and so on (harvested)= LIFE (it is most potent when it looks most dead..)
Evy= LIFE (grows on dead items(trees) or dead things as walls)
Lizard= evil/death (often with a butterfly caught)
snails and flys: decay/death
candels= life - and how short it is
glas (one often broken), eggs (again one broken),music instruments with strings (one string often broken) = how beautiful but fragile life is..
monkey= evil (the devil, as it looks almost human, but isn't)
lilly = life
thistle = death/flower of evil (looks alive when dead and dried..)
"life is like the sound coming from a violin - and as short"..
flute = musicality
Raven = evil/clever
coins = wealth
chess board = clevernes
flowers and fruits are often going bad..
soap bubbles = fragile but perfect in form
images on a wall; if not framed, one corner will be bent = death is coming soon
the border of a table (maybe the one where you put your still life) = death (if things are hanging down from it)
and so on, and so on
if you try to look for modern Vanitas Symbols, I can give you four here and now:
in fashion photography the theme "the beauty in a place of decay" (like an old factory, long abandoned..
the "Best before" note on fresh food!
the Y2K problem (everybody thought the world would "end" in year 2000...)
and the most powerfull in our time: 09/11
the symbol can be used as the image of the twin towers (two candels?)
or as a time set on a watch..
This is a fun world to explore - never ending.
the "message" you put in an image doesn't have to mean anything specific