Definitions for "Vanitas"
An image that invites viewers to contemplate their own mortality. Skulls, time-pieces, bubbles, flowers and other such symbols are all used as metaphors for the transience of time. This is a genre that is specifically associated with Northern 16th-17th century art.
From the Latin for "'vanity."' These are still-life paintings--often featuring a skull--that try to remind the viewer of how temporary human life really is. In the 17th Century, these paintings were very popular in Holland.
a theme in painting that flourished in 17th-century Holland. The vanitas was a symbolic representation of the fleeting nature of life and a reminder that spiritual redemption should be at the center of a person’s life. A typical symbol in a vanitas painting would be the human skull, but other symbols, such as a disordered pile of dishes or books, hint at the foolishness of a life focused on earthly concerns versus one focused on the soul’s redemption.