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Vanitas (Latin for “vanity” in its older sense, meaning “worthlessness” or “pointlessness”), was a popular theme in the art of 16th- and 17th-century Flanders and Netherlands (the concept emerges out of the book of Ecclesiastes in the Bible). Through rich symbolism, the paintings emphasised the inevitability of death (skulls, rotting food or flowers, extinguished candles), the brevity of earthly life (bubbles, hourglass, watches, musical instruments) – and with that, the futility of all pleasures. They often contained moralising angels.
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