Still Life: An Allegory of the Vanities of Human Life

Through this allegorical work, Steenwyck uses each object to symbolize a facet of human life, and a single, heavenly stream of light to highlight the pile of objects amidst a dull background. The skull first draws the eye, alluding to death. Among the other eclectic objects are books to symbolize knowledge, musical instruments to symbolize enjoyment, and the rare Japanese sword and the shell to symbolize wealth. Furthermore, the chronometer and lamp are symbols of the ephemerality of life.

Creator: Harmen Steenwyck

Date: about 1640

Original Medium: Oil on oak

Original Size: 39.2 x 50.7 cm

Location: National Gallery London