Old Master Paintings, Drawings, and British Portraits



A Vanitas Still Life with a Skull, Crown, Scepter, Flute, Bellows, Hourglass, Carnations in a Glass Vase, Scroll, Book and an Engraved Portrait of Charles I

signed V.C. Loúrens. in the lower right and inscribed on the engraving Den Koninck. boer en bedelaer zijn in het graf Godt even naer

oil on panel

14 ¾ x 13 ½ inches          (38.8 x 35.5 cm.)

“The beheading of Charles I of England in 1649 shook the monarchies across Europe.” [1] The most prominent passage of this vanitas by Vincent Laurensz. van der Vinne is the reproduction of an engraving of Charles I (after Wenceslas Hollar) beneath an overturned crown upon which a scepter and skull rest. The engraving is inscribed “Den Koninck. boer en bedelaer sijn in het graf Godt even near”, which can be interpreted as the king, farmer and beggar are all equal in death before God. The Louvre’s Van der Vinne shares the same motif of a painted engraving of Charles I below an upside-down crown as well as also including a skull, flute, hourglass and book.

The objects not directly related to Charles I symbolize the transience of life. Smoke as a vanitas emblem stemmed directly from Psalm 102:3, “For my days pass away like smoke”. The closed bellows in the center are unable to stoke a fire. The cut flowers in a glass vase reference the fact that they will soon wither and die, and glass is easily shattered. The closed books and scroll are symbolic of the vanity of human knowledge. Hourglasses were commonly used throughout Holland during this period. In these types of works sand is always shown in both orbs, never with the last grain sifted to the bottom. The viewer is reminded of the brevity of man’s earthly existence, but that there is still time to seek redemption and focus on the spiritual aspects of life. The inclusion of the flute underscores once more “life’s transience” as music is but a momentary pleasure that quickly evaporates. [2] 

Although vanitas works were ostensibly an appeal for the rejection of worldly possessions, their popularity was dependent upon the ability to dazzle the eye. Van der Vinne certainly succeeds in this goal, and as typical in Dutch seventeenth century painting the message is delivered with “a wink and a nod”.

Van der Vinne was a student of Frans Hals in 1647 and in 1649 joined the guild in Haarlem. From 1652 until 1655 he traveled in Germany, Switzerland, and France partly in the company of Cornelis Bega. Upon his return he would spend the rest of his life working in Haarlem. He painted landscapes and portraits but was primarily a still life artist. [3] Besides the Louvre, Paris, Van der Vinne’s works can be found at the Courtauld Institute of Art, London; the Frans Hals Museum and the Teylers Museum in Haarlem; as well as The Utah Museum of Fine Arts, Salt Lake City.


We would like to thank Dr. Fred G. Meijer for upon viewing confirming that this is a work by Vincent Laurensz. van der Vinne the Elder.

[1] Raymond J. Kelly, “Types of Vanitas Symbols” in To Be, or Not to Be, Four Hundred Years of Vanitas Painting, Flint Institute of Arts, Flint, Michigan, 2006, p .29.

[2] Ibid, pp. 22-23, 25-28.

[3] Biographical information taken from Adriaan van der Willigem & Fred G. Meijer, “Vincent (I) van der Vinne” in A Dictionary of Dutch and Flemish Still-Life Painters Working in Oils 1525 – 1725, Primavera Press, Leiden, 2003, p. 208; and “Vincent Laurensz. van der Vinne (I)” on (RKD Explore) website.


Lawrence Steigrad Fine Arts

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