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Maker(s):Swanenburgh, Willem
Culture:Dutch (ca. 1582-1612)
Title:Allegory of Vanity
Date Made:1611
Materials:Engraving, second state of two
Place Made:Europe; Netherlands; Holland
Measurements:Mat: 20 in x 15 7/8 in; 50.8 cm x 40.3 cm; Sheet: 10 11/16 in x 7 3/4 in; 27.1 cm x 19.7 cm; Plate: 10 7/16 in x 7 5/8 in; 26.5 cm x 19.4 cm; Image: 10 3/8 in x 7 7/16 in; 26.4 cm x 18.9 cm
Accession Number:  MH 1999.17.2
Credit Line:Purchase with the Gilbert A. and Hester Hemstreet-Cam (Class of 1928) Art Acquisition Fund
Museum Collection:  Mount Holyoke College Art Museum

Seated woman at a table with mirror, jewels, and other elements relating to the allegory of vanitas

Label Text:
The subject of this exquisitely detailed engraving is an allegory of vanity—in which the idea of vanity is made manifest in both physical objects and a beautiful, ornately adorned young woman. To her right we see a table strewn with treasures—coins, a crown and scepter, jewels, and precious containers—all signs of worldly wealth. Above the table float delicate bubbles—a reminder that wealth is fleeting, and—like life—can be gone as quickly as the popping of a bubble.

The beginning of the Latin inscription below the image reads: “If you are unaware of puffed-up trifles, and the wispy delights of the world, this painted picture shows you. Here the wanton girl relaxes in flowing silk, whose jewelry box contains inexhaustible riches. . .” The subject is related to that of the Vanitas painting, also on view in this gallery, but with the inclusion of the female figure. Depicting women as embodying both the best and worst traits of society (such as justice, faith, deceit, and lust) was popular in European art of this period.

-Kendra Weisbin, Associate Curator of Education, Mount Holyoke College Art Museum (Jan 2018)

allegory; vanity; women

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