The Berger Collection

Edward Collier (ca. 1640-ca. 1710)
A Vanitas, 1669
Oil on canvas
Signed and dated, E. Collier. fe: / Anno 1669
33 x 46 1/2 in. (83.3 x 118.1 cm)

This still life was probably painted as a posthumous commemoration of a dead soldier, for all the objects carefully arranged on the draped table refer to a military life. We see the soldier's suit of armor, surrounded by his sword, rifle, plumed helmet, and box of medals. On the right lies an open book, a treatise on the art and science of artillery; behind the book is a globe, which perhaps indicates the sites of the soldier's campaigns. The portrait miniature next to the box of medals, probably an image of the soldier himself, personalizes what would otherwise be an anonymous vanitas picture. Such paintings were a type of still life that showed a collection of objects chosen and arranged to remind the viewer of the transience and uncertainty of life. Often they depict objects related to the passing of time. Here, a pocket watch lies between the open book and the box.


Sotheby's, New York, June 3, 1988, lot 108; Christie's, New York, May 23, 1997, lot 61

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