Thursday, September 24, 2015

Vanity of vanities...something to paint

   Summer is over and school began again. I was sorry to miss our long times in Maine, but you know how summers evaporate. I have started to think about what to paint this Fall. I signed up for what I thought would be a class in Dutch painting with a Vanitas twist. In the past, with a smile, I have included in my paintings a typical symbol for the transient nature of earthly pursuits and goods or a memento mori, a reminder of the certainty of death or the shortness of life. Note the skull in the martini glass at the bottom of my huge 33rd anniversary painting, Reverie on a Quilt (Ode to Joe).

    I wasn't sure how far I could take the Vanitas theme so I started researching paintings with Vanitas additions, usually found on the fronts of paintings. I read the 12 chapters of Ecclesiastes where you find "Vanity of vanities; all is vanity," suggesting futility. I found it calming. In research on Google, I read that some in the 15th and 16th centuries had painted Vanitas paintings on the verso of portraits, not just the fronts! These might have skulls, books, candles, pipes, flowers, time pieces. I asked everyone if they knew of such paintings. They and I had never heard of such.

      Paula Pitman Brown wins the prize because she located Barthel Bruyn, the Elder for me and his 1524 Portrait of a Woman, the wife of Gerhard von Westerburg with the verso painting's comment suggesting death is the destiny of all.  Paula found references to the painting after Googling The Vanitas Still Lifes of Harmen Steenwyck: Metaphoric Realism by Kristine Koozin. Koozin wrote that CADUT MORS ULTIMA LINIA RERU is on the verso of the painting and it translates as "everything is destined to perish, death is the final goal of all." She continued, "The composition on the backside or verso as a whole is an excuse for the woman's portrait, as well as a reminder to her that the beauty of her image shown on the front side is only a transient state as indicated on the backside." Please visit the Kroller Muller museum (Otterlow, Holland) link to see this 26-year-old bride and the Vanitas painting as well. Portrait of Gertraude von Leutz – Kröller-MüllermuseumThe Encyclopedia of Iconography: Themes Depicted in Works of Art edited by Helene E. Roberts is where I got my first clue of this interesting painting pursuit.

       I still don't know what I will paint this Fall, but I have written my blog a few days early and entered some painting shows. Carpe Beadem will be in two shows. It is fun, however stressful,  to paint again. Thanks for stopping by! Note to myself:  Check out the tradition of grisaille paintings on the reverse of altarpiece wings and still-life objects in niches in the miniaturist style of Jan van Eyck's 15th C paintings.

Goodbye, Maine


  1. I didn't know about the vanitas verso. Can't wait to see your fall paintings. Always growing and changing! Carpe Beadem!

  2. This was so informative and fun to read. Loved "revisiting" your painting, too! You could write a post every month and each time post one of your former paintings, and we would all benefit and enjoy!

  3. Linda, An impressive and articulate blog. I love the research bit...really fun to read and I so appreciated the skull in the martini gives me palpitations...I love the idea so much. You could work off this as an idea. Don't we all love our drinks physically and symbolically, they do keep us from thinking about death....Man, the symbolism grabs me like Francesco Clemente! PPB

  4. Very creative! I wish you the best of luck in the paint shows. I hope you can find a way to not be too stressed over painting. Love the double wedding ring effect in top painting.

  5. Thrilling and Amazing, as always - You are a TRUE ARTIST in so many ways.

  6. And to everything there is a season...or some such. I prefer an olive at the bottom of my martini glass, but do love this painting.