FRENCH SCHOOL, CIRCA 1640
Still-life with Books, Quill Case, Ink Pot and a Tulip
oil on canvas
19 ½ x 25 ½ inches (50 x 65.5 cm.)
Private Collection, Sweden
This work is a vanitas comprised of books, a quill case, ink pot, letter and tulip. All the elements are indicative of the transience of life.
Books are symbolic of the variety of human knowledge, soon to be ignored or outdated. The open book displays a 1640 charter meant to underscore the futility of such an edict when faced with the march of time. The quill case, ink pot and letter further point to the impermanence of thought and human endeavor.
The tulip often displayed in vanitas works reflects “costly” beauty evoking the mania and ensuing crash of the market for its bulbs in 1637. Although tulipmania is usually associated with Holland, this craze affected all of Europe. The fragility of the flower and its assured demise is reflected in its plucked state.