The Cummer's Vanitas by Jacques De Clauew

December 1, 2012 0 comments Open printer friendly version of this article Print Article

Another incredible painting in The Cummer Museum of Art & Gardens permanent collection, "Vanitas" by Jacques De Clauew.

A one-of-a-kind piece featured in The Cummer’s permanent collection is Vanitas by Jacques De Clauew. This painting is especially significant, in that it is one of the relatively few works known by Jacques de Claeuw, and is typical of the artist's vanitas still lifes. The term vanitas (Latin for “emptiness”) is applied to still life images featuring objects that represent the brevity of life or the emptiness of worldly concerns. De Claeuw’s contemporary public was familiar with such symbolism and would have recognized the partially covered celestial globe as an attribute of astronomy. The globe, along with a copy of the Amsterdam Waersegger Almanach (1677), a soothsayer’s almanac, refers to man’s inability to accurately predict the future. The musical instruments, inkwell, sealing wax, and cards refer to the vanity of worldly amusements. The hourglass and the smoke associated with the pipe and candle denote the passage of time. The flies and flowers are symbolic of decay and the shortness of life. The image of Venus refers to the impermanence of physical beauty. The small portrait of the prominent engraver Pieter de Jode (1604-1674) is a reference to the immortality an artist attempts to gain through art.

Jacques De Clauew, born Jacques Grief, was a Dutch Golden Age painter from a small river town in northern Holland. Because of a physical deformity, he was given the nickname of “de Claeuw” meaning “the claw.” The artist completed his training under the marine and still life painter Abraham van Beyeren. Grief went on to marry Maria van Goyen, daughter of the landscape painter Josef van Goyen in 1651, and was the brother-in-law of the interior painter Jan Steen. Grief was known for his still life images. Popularized as an independent genre by Dutch artists of the period, Still Life appealed to the taste of Calvinist patrons who objected to overtly religious art.