- The Dutch Reform Protestant Church, formed in 1571, forbade the depiction of religious icons.
- Painting inanimate objects was considered less accomplished/laudable than live subjects.
- They were rarely, if ever, commissioned.
- Symbolic and metaphorical depictions of religious concepts flourished.
- Since it was a "vulgar" genre, beneath portraiture and soforth, men felt less threatened by women still life painters.
- Artists got to choose the subject matter.
Cuz see, Flemish still lifes were so popular that the symbolism they employed became *formally codified.* Eventually, a part of being an educated art collector of the period was knowing what still life to hang where, depending on its contents!
Because those aren't strawberries, asparagus, or artichokes. Those are MEDLARS, you ASSHOLE.
This painting is code for "Hoes don't go to heaven, you know."
Hang this over your bed if you're hankerin' for a divorce.
But other art connoisseurs appreciated a more direct message.
And y'know what? These vanitas paintings are good. Great, even! But the very BEST ONES were painted AFTER Jan. 30, 1649.
It was the absolute embodiment of their message: YOUR EARTHLY POWER AND PRESTIGE IS NOTHING.