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Deathly Contemplation: 17th century Dutch Vanitas Paintings, An Illustrated lecture with Lauren Davis
Morbid Anatomy Museum
Brooklyn , NY
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Deathly Contemplation: 17th century Dutch Vanitas Paintings, An Illustrated lecture with Lauren Davis
Date: Thursday, January 28th
Time: 8pm
Admission: $8
Location: Morbid Anatomy Museum, 424 Third Avenue, 11215 Brooklyn, NY

The skull is one of the most common icons of mortality in art.  Artwork featuring the presence or symbolism of death reflects the culturally and historically specific views of our desire to transcend death. Its employment in artistic imagery can be dated back to Roman times and is most commonly seen in artistic genres like dance of death, ars moriendi, and memento mori. But its emergence as a reminder of our fleeting time on earth reached a new artistic scale of beauty in 17th century Dutch vanitas paintings. An urgency to meditate on the impermanence of earthly pleasures and goods reached a heightened state in early 1600s Flemish culture and had a visually stunning effect on still life paintings. What came into being were dark, foreboding, cryptic compositions of skull(s) lying amid a cascade of decorative objects symbolizing one's attachment to wealth, knowledge, and status. These glorious "dark" still lifes not only acted as modes of meditative contemplation on the transience of ones status and material gains, but were seen as pinnacles of artistic talent in the common still life technique, trompe-l'oeil.

This illustrative lecture will explore the origins and symbols of vanitas paintings as well as how the religious and economic climate of late 16th and early 17th century Europe influenced the emergence of this style of still life. We will also visually explore the representation of vanitas in contemporary artistic practice in the past 100 years.

Lauren Davis is an artist, craftswoman, and freelance researcher currently residing in Brooklyn, NY. Her current research and art projects focus on the representation of death and iconographic usage of skulls and skeletons in artwork dating back to the 15th century through contemporary art practices today. Her reflections and studies on art, death, and culture can be found on her site, Iconologia.
She gladly credits her childhood obsessions with X-Files, R.L. Stine's Goosebumps novels, and The Shining for her inclination towards deathly subject matters and all things spooky.

Image credit: Anonymous, A Vanitas Still Life, c.1620, Flint Institute of Arts

Tickets are non-refundable unless the event is canceled.


Morbid Anatomy Museum (View)
424 A Third Avenue
Brooklyn , NY 11215
United States




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