Edward Collier
Still Life with a Volume of Wither’s ‘Emblemes’ 1696

Artwork details

Edward Collier active 1662–1708
Still Life with a Volume of Wither’s ‘Emblemes’
Date 1696
Medium Oil paint on canvas
Dimensions Support: 838 x 1079 mm
frame: 1004 x 1242 x 70 mm
Acquisition Purchased 1949
On display at Tate Britain
Room: 1650

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.

February 2016

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