The National Gallery is an art museum in Trafalgar Square in London. Founded in 1824, it houses a collection of over 2,300 paintings dating from the mid-13th century to 1900.
After spending the morning at Churchill’s War Rooms, we walked over to Trafalgar Square to spend the afternoon at the National Gallery. We only saw a small part. It would take days to tour the entire museum, but here is a bit of what we saw. The two paintings below were my favorites:
This painting is one of a large number of scenes showing collectors and visitors in real or largely imaginary settings that were produced in Flanders in the 17th century. This example was probably painted in 1620. It may well be the work of two painters, one responsible for the figures and the other for the interior, which is probably largely imaginary but shows real objects owned by the collector.
This type of painting is called a ‘vanitas’, after the biblical quotation from the Old Testament book of Ecclesiastes (1:2): ‘Vanitas vanitatum… et omnia vanitas’, translated ‘Vanity of vanities, all is vanity’. The books symbolise human knowledge, the musical instruments (a recorder, part of a shawm, a lute) the pleasures of the senses. The Japanese sword and the shell, both collectors’ rarities, symbolise wealth. The chronometer and expiring lamp allude to the transience and frailty of human life. All are dominated by the skull, the symbol of death.
It is essentially a religious works in the guise of a still life. ‘Vanitas’ paintings caution the viewer to be careful about placing too much importance in the wealth and pleasures of this life, as they could become an obstacle on the path to salvation.
Next time I will show you some of my favorite pieces from the Musée d’Orsay in Paris.
Bill Powers is the author of The Pharm House a debut suspense/thriller from DonnaInk Publications.
Visit my website at http://www.authorbillpowers.com