Edward Collier

Still Life with a Volume of Wither’s ‘Emblemes’

1696

On display at Tate Britain

Medium
Oil paint on canvas
Dimensions
Support: 838 x 1079 mm
frame: 1004 x 1242 x 70 mm
Collection
Tate
Acquisition
Purchased 1949
Reference
N05916

Display caption

In this still-life painting the musical instruments, wine and jewels represent the fleeting pleasures of life, while the skull and hour-glass symbolise the inevitability of death. The open book shows a brief poem emphasising the theme of mortality. The Latin inscription in the top left corner comes from the Old Testament book of Ecclesiastes: ‘Vanity of vanities, all is vanity’. This is why such pictures are known as vanitas paintings. Born in the Netherlands, Collier arrived in England in 1693 to produce still-life paintings like this to sell to the English market. He died in London in 1708.

Gallery label, February 2016

Audio

Still Life with a Volume of Wither's 'Emblemes' - Edward Collier (book)

What is the book on the left? Curator Tim Batchelor