Vanitas and Western Culture


The development of high culture during the Renaissance (approx. 1330-1550) which produced a variety of memorable paintings, sculptures, and structures would not have been possible if it wasn’t for European expansion through colonization of Africa and the Americas. As wealth was accumulated throughout Europe and master artworks became widely available Baroque (1600-1700) depicted subject matters relatable to the bourgeoisie. The lasting effect of the Baroque period is not solely from the sense of drama but also from uncanniness emerging from strategically placed reminders of mortality known as vanitas. The paintings were reflective of the wealthy; genre scenes with religious connotations and the beginning of the modern world dominated. Despite art being accessible to a wider audience, the male gaze remained as the primary storyteller. Contemporary to emerging European power, the European gaze was encapsulated by the use of vanitas (a visual reminder of one’s mortality), which can signify the…

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