The fascination of still lifes lies in their close-up view of a few, often
unchanging objects rendered with extreme painterly sophistication. The
still life, once on the lower rungs of the artistic ladder, was often used to
demonstrate an artist’s skills, the appeal and value of a work being
based on the quality of the composition, the meaningful combination of
objects and the refinement of the brushstroke. In early modern times,
however, the still life became much more than a mere exercise in style.
It often served to make a moral statement and to encourage reflection.
The Vanitas in particular was meant to remind us of the fleeting nature
of life, a universal thought individually rendered by the objects chosen
to symbolize it.