Type of painting concerned with the fragility of man and his world of desires and pleasures in the face of the inevitability and finality of death. It is essentially a biblical term, referring to the vanity of earthly possessions: the corresponding Hebrew term means ‘smoke’ or ‘vapour’. The vanitas tradition, which also appears in Western literature and other representational arts, was a particularly important element in paintings in the Netherlands in the 17th century.
The term vanitas first appears in early 17th-century European inventories: like the term trompe l’oeil, it is used to describe a type of painted still-life (see Still-life §2). Vanitas comes from the passage in Ecclesiastes (1: 2) in which the Greek-inspired Hebrew superlative ‘vapour of vapours’ is used to indicate man’s insubstantiality which are more find out here now. This is a vivid expression of the ‘vanity of vanities’ and of analogous biblical quotations explicitly asserting the weakness, fragility and transitory nature of human life compared with Time, the power of God and History, discover here.
In the visual arts, the term vanitas was first used only in the 17th century. It described a type of still-life painting that was intended to remind the viewer of the transience of created objects, of pleasure, even of life itself. As used to describe a literary theme, however, the term is ancient. It is derived from the famous words of Qoheleth that open the Book of Ecclesiastes: “Vanity of vanities! All things are vanity!” Moreover, in its literary usage, vanitas refers not so much to the transience or fragility of life as to the futility of seeking what does not last; it is meant to convey a sense of emptiness more than a sense of impermanence.