Monday, March 16, 2020

Allegory of Charles I of England and Henrietta of France in a Vanitas Still Life

Attributed to Carstian Luyckx, 17th century. I wonder if the bubbles are meant to convey the fleeting nature of life. Do the shells represent the Stuart children? From BHAM Wiki:
The painting is a still-life, realistically depicting an arrangement of objects, all of which allude to life's emptiness and fragility. The genre was popular among Northern European artists in the 17th century, and reflects an attitude inspired by the Old Testament book of Ecclesiastes ("Vanity of vanities, saith the preacher; all is vanity.")
Among the objects depicted in the Allegory is a book with portraits of Charles I (1600-1649) and his wife, Henriette Marie (1610-1669). Although not as flattering, her portrait resembles, in her pose, jewelry and dress, a 1689 engraving by Cornelius Nicolaus Schurtz (1630-1690) which was published in Nürnberg in Johann Christoph Beer's Das Neu-Geharnische Großbritannien.
Henrietta and Charles were both well-regarded for their appreciation of painting and for their impressive art collection. Charles, however, fell afoul of Parliament for favoring his purse over the good of the country and was convicted of treason at a High Court of Justice and subsequently executed by beheading before Whitehall. Most of the former king's collection was sold off by Parliament to redeem debts incurred during the English Civil War.
Surrounding the book are a broken skull crowned with laurel, a snuffed candle, a blank parchment with sealing wax and a pince-nez. Behind them is a globe resting atop an atlas, a piece of coral on a wood casket, and several cowrie shells. Behind the book are two female portrait busts in classical dress, and a sculpture of a putto lofting a scallop shell in which rest a pipette and several soap bubbles, four of which drift up into the air.
The broken skull and snuffed candle allude to the imminence of death. The atlas and globe point toward the empire's worldly riches while the blank parchment and eyeglasses provide an opportunity for an honest account of one's deeds. The cowries represent the body cast off by the departure of the spirit, while the seal the coral offers protection from evil and the laurel symbolizes victory over death. (Read more.)
 More on Vanitas paintings, HERE. Share

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