Samsara Series – Vanitas I
Oil on canvas
45 x 45 cm
17.7 x 17.7 in
This painting is based on two still-life subgenres: trompe-l’oeil (i.e. tricks the eye) and vanitas.
Vanitas paintings refer to the futility and transience of worldly pleasures in the face of the daunting concept of death. Objects represented in these works generate a symbolic contrast between such aspects; on the one hand the earthly world, accumulation and pleasure (such as knowledge, power, wealth, beauty, etc.) and on the other, fragility, transience and death.
In the work I am presenting, these two worlds are clearly dissociated: the representation of an antique gilded Florentine frame, painted in obsessive detail, surrounds a skull on which it is not possible to focus, since death is a concept which escapes our comprehension.
Trompe-l’oeil, which confuses us as to what is real or just an illusion and introduces us to the ideas of deception, doubt or mystery, reinforces the concept of vanitas. As Pedro Calderón de la Barca wrote:
“What is life? A frenzy.
What is life? An illusion, a shadow, a fiction;
And the greatest good is but little;
For all life is but a dream, and dreams are only dreams.”