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Still life of fruit and a pie on a table

The Royal Collection has a stunning collection of seventeenth century Dutch art

Pieter Gerritsz van Roestraten (Haarlem c.1631-London 1700)

A Vanitas c.1666-1700

Oil on canvas | 76.2 x 63.8 cm | RCIN 402604

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Roestraten studied in Haarlem with Frans Hals, his father-in-law, but by 1666 was living in London, where he is recorded as having been injured in the Great Fire. While in London he created a local version of the Dutch pronkstilleven ('still-life for show'), with prominence given to English silver and oriental ceramics.

In this vanitas still-life a skull, coins and a silver pocket watch on a silk ribbon relate to the transience of earthly pleasures, alongside a book open at a print of a laughing Democritus inscribed with the lines ‘Everyone is sick from birth / vanity is ruining the world’. Most intriguing is the suspended glass sphere, in which can be seen the distorted reflection of a room, including the tiny figure of an artist looking towards the viewer, and towards the skull and silver ginger jar, which are also included in the reflection.