Wednesday, February 24, 2010

The Vanitas Influence...


No, I'm not turning to the dark side.

No, I'm not Gothic.

No, It's not Halloween.

No, This is not a creepy blog spot. (gosh, I hope not! ;)

No, No, No, and Yes...

I owe each of you who left me a comment on my last post and those of you who sent me an email "a huge thank you" for being so honest about my "new" background. I know I can always depend on you for honest answers! :)

Some of you love it, some of you not so much and some of you love it but really dislike (& I'm putting it nicely) the skull.

I'm smiling as I just love all of your honest opinions and I'm so happy that you expressed your feelings, that's exactly what I wanted to hear from you.

Do you love art? ~ I love art.

Do you love all kinds of art?  ~ No, I don't. It just depends.

However, I do love art that has meaning. And, what I mean by art having meaning that I can live by instead of just having an opinion of loving it or not.

Do you know what a "Vanitas painting" is? I didn't until a few days ago. But once I saw it, I loved it, I read about it, I found it's meaning and I really loved it thereafter.

Vanitas is a term referring to the arts, learning and time. The word is Latin, meaning "vanity." It is often depicted in still life paintings by Northern European painters (Dutch, Netherlands) and symbolized by the presence of different symbols such as a skull, a rotten fruit, a watch and a musical instrument.

It is a message that tells the viewer that the pleasure of life only lasts a moment: because time is limited, live fully the present moment. The symbolism of a skull or rotten fruit remind us of mortality. Musical instruments show the vanity of music; as soon as the music starts, it will die. Music is an ephemeral moment explaining that the return is impossible; it begins and it ends.

'Vanitas' paintings were warnings that you should not be concerned about the wealth and possessions you accumulate in this world as you can't take them with you when you die.

For example:

Harmen Steenwyck's (1612-1656) Still Life:

An Allegory of the Vanitas of Human Life


(located in the National Gallery of London)

Vanitas still life paintings depicted objects that had a symbolic meaning such as:   a shell as a symbol of birth, a skull as a symbol of death, and books as to represent knowledge.

So if you look at the above art closely, you will see that birth (the shell) is innocent and rare, then life (the lamp)  is surrounded by knowledge (the books), wealth (the silk), the jug containing water and oil (the essentials of life), the sword (power and craftsmanship), the chronometer (time) and the skull (the passing of life) are just items of our inevitable outcome. 

These types of paintings were essential religious works of art cautioning the viewer to be careful about placing too much importance on the wealth and pleasures of this life as they could be an obstacle on the path to salvation.

Don't we all forget this sometimes????

(The word "Vanitas" comes from a quotation from the book of Ecclesiastes 1:2  "Vanity of vanities, all is vanity.")

By NO means am I preaching here, this post is about ART and LIFE...two things which I cherish deeply. Very deeply.

Vanitas paintings were popular in countries with strict Protestant and Catholic Christian principles such as Holland and Spain. They were purchased by the rich who actually possessed a conscience about the wealth they had accumulated. Go figure! However the genre had an inbuilt weakness in the irony that the paintings were collectible commodities and eventually, became 'Vanitas' objects themselves!

This is the original Vanitas painting of my background below... but my background only shows a snippet of it (which included the skull).

David Bailly (1584-1657) Vanitas Self Portrait


(located in the Stedelijk Museum De Lakenhal, Leiden)

Interestingly enough, Mr. Bailly was Harmen Steenwyck's uncle and teacher of this fine art. And at the age of 60, he painted this Vanitas self portrait before his death. Note all of the details of his life that it includes. 


So there you have it. There's the story to my "new" background.

I know that some of you are not fond of skulls or death, but they DO have a meaning and sometimes it's not as gruesome as you think.

Think of yourself and what items would you have on your Vanitas self portrait???

You are alive with an opportunity for life, love, happiness, prosperity and creativity. You have the option of adoring your very own religion in hopes of an eternity of salvation. However, you will leave something behind in this world...skull and all. And when that time comes, it's only a symbol of the life you lived, here on earth and you cannot take it with you.


I don't know about you, but sometimes when I get all caught up in this blogging world, I tend to forget who I am. As I'm looking at all the beauty out there such as what's hot? Do I have enough followers? What's in? Should I host a give away to get people to come visit and get my name out there? Am I posting interesting things? Do people love to come here? ... I get lost in all of it and then it just doesn't feel right anymore. Right then and there, I need stop and realize that even though I am here, online with all of you, I still have to be ME. And on the other hand, I want you to come here because you want to! Not because what's on my side bar or on my background, etc.

We would all be dead inside if we chased the thought of being like everybody else. I don't want to ever feel that way. That would be my creepy vision of a skull, haha! I love to visit you and leave you a comment to let you know that you have inspired me, made me laugh or to let you know that I'm thinking of you all the while loving our creative differences.

So go out, time is ticking, be creative, and most of all, be YOU! And be cautious of placing too much importance on the wealth and pleasures of this life as they could be an obstacle on the path to salvation, whatever you believe salvation to be in your heart & soul :)

If you've made it this far down, thank you. Thank you for always visiting me. Thank you for leaving words of encouragement. But most of all, Thank you for being you and letting me be me.

In November, when my article was published in Artful Blogging, that meant the world to me but it was quickly shadowed by my father's death just a few days later. My quote that I live by was in my article. For a while, I had it on top of my blog right under my banner. I have put it back up there again so I don't loose myself...ever again ;)

oh...and this background may not stay for long. I just really loved the meaning of  Vanitas art and thought I'd share it with you...


Lou Cinda said...

You go girl! I love it too! And don't we all need to be reminded of that is really important in life! I know I do!!

I am with ya'! AND I learned something new about Vanita....

That's a good thing...

Lou Cinda :)

Theresa said...

Hey there! I was one of the liked the background:) and I guess on my screen I still don't see a skull. Hmmmmm... I like being myself and whatever that is, just is! I don't have a whole bunch of followers but appreciate the ones that I have. It is important to me to keep up with those who follow me and I couldn't do that if I had tons. Anyway, congrats to you for expressing yourself thru art. You are a dear and I hope you have a wonderful Wednesday! Hugs from Georgia!

Geralyn Gray said...

And I am so glad you did............that is what is amazing about is a reflection of you.....and when you look back at history it is a reflection on what has happened.........I think you will probably hang on to this backround for a long time!!!!!!! Art isn't always about what you like.....since I was one who expressed my dislike of the skull.........all I want is Art to bring you happiness........and I KNOW it does so rock on.......JODIE!!!!!!

Robin Thomas said...

Not dark, deep. Love this post Jodie.

Claudia said...

Hi Jodie,

I had no idea about Vanitas art - how fascinating! What a good reminder for us all. You're right, it is so easy to get caught up in the superficial. I love what you said in this post.


Pink Princess said...

HA I didn't see the skull either untill you posted the whole painting. Then I saw it. It is not MY fave but since it is YOUR blog....nuf said ;)

YAY for us Dutch haha ;)

Love and hugs

Julie said...

Oh, wow! Jodie--I LOVED learning about Vanitas--I even took art history in college, and I don't remember covering this...thanks!

Learning something new everyday is very important to me--I love having my eyes & my mind opened up to something I haven't seen before. It makes your background even more beautiful!

I loved all of your thoughts on this--especially on blogging and why we do it. So important to stay true to yourself, not compare yourself or try to keep up with somebody else!

Hope you have a beautiful day today, Jodie. And I hope we all remember the things that are truly important--thanks for the reminder!

Stephanie @ La Dolce Vita said...

Be yourself and we will gladly tune in for more!

Debby said...

Yeah Jodie! Well said..I don't visit your blog because of your background or for any reason in particular. I visit it because I enjoy your posts. I love that you are you. I like vintage, I like pretty, I like so hope that I can express my love for all arts on my blog. I don't really know you, just through your blog but if there was one person I would love to meet out here in blog land it would certainly be you. I do love all the beautiful things I see through blogging but to be truthful I certainly can't live my life like that. I love my home, it has a bit of old and new. I want people to be comfortable when they visit not feel that they can't move around and have fun at my house and I certainly don't want my husband to come home and not be able to be him..and of course those puppies have to been able to run and play. My sister has a gorgeous big old victorian home, filled with many treasures, problem is they are to look at, you can't live in her house, just look. Enough said, better get off of here.

Tristan Robin Blakeman said...

What an interesting and informative post!

I was one of the people who just loves your new background. I don't find it gruesome in the least - I think it's lovely.

But, I create a lot of Día de los Muertos shrines and art - so I'm not freaked out by skulls!

I am in complete agreement with your observations on blogging! I definitely try to just be myself on my blog - and, hopefully - or not! - there will be others with similar interests, aesthetics, points of view who want to visit and share their thoughts with me.

Again, terrific post!

Heather ~Pretty Petals said...

What a beautiful post Jodie!! I had never heard of that type of art but my goodness it completely makes sense doesn't it? Loved this post! Just keep on being you...

xoxo Heather

Leanne said...

Huh, I never knew about vanitas paintings. This is awesome, really aweome ... and look at that droopy rosebud in the painting of your background! (This is the first time I've come to look at it, as I read you on Google Reader)

Very cool ... definitely going to have to do something with this idea... the question is what.

zandra said...

Thanks for the 411! Something I never knew and oh so interesting. You should be a writer! I hang on to every word like a novel. You go girl you always inspire me! ;o)
Hugz, Z

Karen said...

Jodie - this is what it is all about. We can go and visit who we want, but for me, it's what I take away . . . what inspires me. This post was long (you can take it - right?) but I LOVED IT! I never knew about Vanitas art and now that I do, it really has me thinking.
What would we put in our Vanitas self portrait?
You just continue to be Jodie and we'll just keep following you along on your journey. Cheering you on - comforting you if you need it - making you laugh - making you cry and hopefully giving some of the inspiration we receive from you back to you.
LOV YA! Hugs! Me! ;)

Frippery said...

"Ars longa, vita brevis." Art is long, life short. I love your background. Beautiful! I say keep it. Hugs, Pam

Cozy Little House said...

Actually, the skull doesn't bother me. I think we should be creative with ourselves and thus our blogs. So you do what pleases you, and that will please us. (Learned a lot here today.)

Sophee-a Laroo Bijoux and Sheri too said...

I did not figure out that it was a skull...but I actually like skulls and love the painting that represents your background...I enjoyed the info about it too. I love a variety of different things and although others may not like it...I stay true to myself.

I painted a skull pink for Halloween and it sold rather quickly on Etsy...I also own skull vans/shoes...does that make me a Goth~lol

Lori said...

yes, that's what i said...if you like should be on here...this is your blog to write what you will...and to decorate as you see fit...that was very interesting about the vanitas art work...i had never heard about it...thanks for the lesson!!!

Lemondrop Marie said...

Wow, interesting post and art lesson. Love the blog background even more after the explanation.
Marie @ Lemondrop ViNtAge
Happy Chinese New Year giveaway

sexyjavabelle said...

Very well explained. I think you need to save this post as one of your favorites because that was truly deep and meaningful. Even if your post was pitch black in background i would still visit everyday because i love your writing and the way you express yourself. I was one that didn't much care for the skull but now i say rock on with the heads girl--lol!

Anonymous said...

Hi Jodie!!!
I am here FINALLY!!!
But only time to read the latest blog.... and I am fascinated and LOVE it now that I understand the meaning of Vanitas art!!!
Hadn't had a chance to talk with you in a while.
I need to call you, maybe soon?!
I send my love always... everyday.
Hugs and Prayers and Love to YOU!!!
Your sis!!!

Brett said...

Yea I'm not really feeling the new background. But if it has meaning to you, then thats all that matters. It's always going to be "Jodies Blog"

trash talk said...

Wow, behind that pretty face is some mighty deep water! Beautiful post. I like the new background and now even more after reading my lesson.

summersundays-jw said...

I love this lesson too. I've also struggled with my blog & have very often questioned myself because I didn't seem very "important" but have recently jolted my memory as to why I did this in the first place. This was a great post & I'm feeling like I'm a little smarter for having visited you this afternoon. Thanks, Jan

The Victorian Parlor said...


Oh my gosh I love every word of this post!!! I liked the background when I saw it and didn't even notice the skull (hmmm...does that mean that I have been telling too many ghost stories and don't even notice skulls and stuff anymore-I'll have to analyze myself later). Anyway, I really enjoyed learning about the Vanitas-it makes the background even prettier! When I visit your blog I am either inspired by your art or smiling at your humor-either way visiting your blog is a joy! This was really fun-and don't ever change-you are one fun happy inspiring person and I, I mean we (had to include Kramer in this) love you!!!



LiLi M. said...

Thanks for a very beautiful and wise post!

Carolina Collins said...

Lovely post .... absolutely inspiring .... up beat and cheerful .....

..... all the while defending yourself (guessing here) from a number of none too polite comments on your selection of art.

Besides the lesson in art history, life philosophy, world history & 16th century religion, you also taught us by example how to compose gracious "come backs" (for lack of a more appropriate word) that defend one's position while allowing the detractor room to exit gracefully with dignity.

Not an easily acquired talent nor, unfortunately, one commonly found these days.

Thank you for the reminder of graciousness .... thank you for educating me on a unique art genre ...

..... and thank you especially for reminding me that my Grandmother's daily warnings of "always remembering who I am ..... a Lady" is a core value deserving of always being in the forefront .....


Sandi said...

Whew! This was amazing. You constantly surprise me with your writing. Considering what is happening with my grandson right now, life and death have been heavy on my mind. Cherishing life is truly important.

Anonymous said...

Hey chickadee! I love this post! So much meaning to it! I totally know how your feeling! Thats why the other day I told ya I was taking a little break! hehe Its funny how we forget what we love the most and not what everyone else loves and you just go to it like a bug to a light! I know that your blog is you and it truely shows your true self! Jodie and all! hehe BIG HUGS!!

Sorry I havent visited in awhile Im going to catch up on your post tonight! :)

My Grama's Soul said...

Dear friend.......THAT WAS ONE FABULOUS POST!!!!!!!

Nuf' said.



vintagesusie said...

Sweetest Jodie...{I adore using that name}
Trying to find your authentic self in this blogging world where we are constantly exposed to sooooooo many wonderful & enticing things is a balancing act of sorts. Most of the time, I'm just me on my blog...once in a while I go a stray & think I maybe I should add lovely pics from Country Living or Martha like some of the REALLY popular blogs, but then I get Country Living mag. & if I want to look at magazine pics, I'll pick up mine & look at it. Some of my very favorite & most poignant post have had no comments which sometimes is frustrating, but then I remember...this actually started out as an on-line journal where I could experiment, speak my truth, follow my journey & share that 'for what it's worth'! Staying centered, that's the key & if no reads & no one follows, that's ok right! That's not what it's's simply about putting it out there in the universe & reaping the joy of the process!!! Thanks for this thought provoking post...I think I needed it!!!!
Smiles & Hugs Friend,

Cindy Geilmann said...

Hi Miss Jodie, I've missed our visits. I've been busy helping to move our Antic Shop. And right now My hubby and I are up in the mountains visiting our favorite cottage at the Homestead. I've got my computer so I can visit my friends that I haven't visited for some time. I love you valentine spot and I also love your new boarder. Very interesting Vanitas Art!

I need one more follower to reach 50 and then I'm going to have a drawing with the names of my followers. Won't be long.

You awesome Jodi, keep it up.

Stacy Stewart said...

Jodie ~ this was a super interesting post! I have seen that type of art before, but I never knew the name of it or understood the real meaning behind it. Thanks so much for sharing! I love learning new things! ~Stacy~

Sares said...

I think it's great! I really appreciate all the effort you took explaining it too. The skull doesn't bother me at all, I see it as a form of art too. I think it is so fascinating how artists from long ago all had special hidden meaning to their work, most of which none of us would understand today unless we studied up on it, especially religious artwork. I say stay true to yourself, if you love it, you should keep it on. Just share the secret of how you did it! I can not figure out how to add my own backgrounds!

June said...

Wow Jodie this was deep...and I loved the explanation of Vanitas art. Boy do we ever need to get that we can't take it with us and to not put so much of ourselves into what we aquire. Because we of all people should understand that we can't take it with us, we are all so excited about the dead people's stuff we are collecting, that we should surely understand this. I loved what you said about not losing ourselves to this blogging thing. We must remain true and I believe when we don't, our fellow bloggers can spot it from a mile away. We all will keep each other honest, to be sure.
Oh and BTW if Lovey's gift came to me by na na na...I've got it now!!!!!!LOL
hugs to you

Robin Sanchez said...

Love you background Jodie. I like the skulls and dont find them dark at all. We have a big Dia de los Muertas street fair here and there are lots of skulls and shrines for the dead. Its very interesting to see what other cultures celebrate. Loved your post.

A Fanciful Life said...

Oh, helllllloooooo Miss Jodie! Wow, I go missing for four days and I miss so much! Well, that is one fascinating post. I feel like I just got out of one of my college classes (but that was a looooong time ago!). You really spent a lot of time researching and writing this topic and I really admire that. Now, if you could just add a bit more pink to your new background - haha!

So, Mr. Mailman brought me a box from Lousiana today. I've been so busy at work, I completely forgot that your birthday surprise was on its way. I cut open the top, lifted the lid and ..... saw the lovely card on top and quickly closed the box up again. Yes, I'm pulling a Jodie and am waiting to open it when I can savor it just right. Before I take out one shred of paper, I must pull out my camera when the light is right, and photograph each step of the opening. I am so looking forward to discovering what awaits me inside but I must wait until the time is right. That will probably be tomorrow morning - ha! A full documentation of my delight will follow! Oh boy, happy birthday to me...
Sharon :-)

Julia - "Vintage with Laces" said...

Hi Jodie, That's a great post! Thank you for the lesson on Vanitas! It was very informative and I hadn't known a thing about it before.
You are so right about being ourselves when blogging. A couple of times I had found myself thinking if I should really blog about something pink when the majority seems to prefer creams and whites. I had always decided to go for it because the pink is ME as well as cream, white and some other colors are. It for sure feels good to have lots of visitors, followers and comments but I don't want to pretend being someone that I'm not. So, as long as I like pink, there will always be some pink on my blog :-).
Have a great day!

Linda said...

Dear Jodie,
I absolutely adore this posting!!! And I LOVE the history that you provided behind the Vanitas (they're beautiful, symbolic works of art!).

You are well aware of my love of taking 3 mile lunchtime walks through a massive campus cemetery, and therefore skulls and the stark reality of life, do not bother me at all and instead, I appreciate all the more so, those who think beyond the present world to our eternal existence and especially those who remain true to themselves.

I greatly needed to read this reminder this week - thank you. I've been depressed due to the winter weather - for some reason, I feel claustrophobic in my own skin right now and am having difficulties caring about anything (even my writing). I keep trying to pray and the old dull mood keeps coming back.


lorhen82 said...

Hi Jodie,
This was one INTERESTING post! I came by here to maybe see some eye candy, and I ended up learning something! I was not familiar with Vanitas art, but what a deep and meaningful art form it is! I truly like that there is meaning behind it, and not just beauty. Much like people, it's not the outside that means the most. I don't find the skull creepy or dark at all. There is something intriguing to me about its use in art. Great post, girl!


Debra@Common Ground said...

I wasn't familiar with this genre, but it makes so much sense. Remember in scripture where King Solomon, the wealthiest man in the world says, "Vanity, vanity life is vanity" That can really sum it up if you don't have your head on straight. And as for the "numbers" on our sidebar, we can't get caught up in them as a measure of who we are.
This was a wonderful and inspiring post dear Jodie,

Anonymous said...

wow, thanks soooooooooooooooooooo much for saving me a after school detention for not knowing what vanitas means.