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The skull and hour-glass symbolise the inevitability of death, while the musical instruments, wine and jewels represent the fleeting pleasures of life. 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.Edward Collier was born in Breda, in the Netherlands. He lived in Leiden and Amsterdam, but left for England in 1693. He died in London in 1708.

April 2007