Monday, November 3, 2014

David Bailly

Vanitas still life with a self-portrait
oil on panel
65 x 97.5 cm
Museum De Lakenhal, Leiden, the Netherlands

Vanitas is an explicit genre of art in which the artist uses gloomy and moody symbolic objects in order that the viewer becomes very aware of the brevity of life and the inevibility of death. The origins of the term vanitas can be traced back to the Latin biblical adage from the Book of Ecclesiastes: “…vanitas vanitatum omnia vanitas…” which when translated means: “…vanity of vanities; all is vanity…”. This specific artistic genre was very popular in the 16th and 17th century especially in the Netherlands, Flanders and France.

David Bailly (1584-1657) was a Dutch Golden Age painter. He was born at Leyden in the Dutch Republic, the son of a Flemish immigrant, calligrapher and fencing master. He apprenticed with a surgeon-painter in Leiden and then with a portrait painter in Amsterdam.In the winter of 1608, Bailly took his Grand Tour, travelling to Frankfurt, Nuremberg, Augsburg Hamburg, and via Tirol to Venice, and from there to Rome. On his return he spent five months in Venice, all the while working as a journeyman where he could, before crossing the alps again in 1609. On his return voyage, he worked for several German princes including the Duke of Brunswick. Upon his return to the Netherlands in 1613, he began painting still-life subjects and portraits, including self-portraits and portraits of his students and professors at the University of Leiden.

He is known for making a number of vanities paintings depicting transience of this life, with such ephemeral symbols as flowers and candles. He also included portraits of himself in these paintings, meaning to illustrate the ephemeral nature of his own artistic accomplishments. Though he sometimes intended his drawings as models for engravings, more often he made them as independently displayed works of art. In 1648 he became headman of the Leiden Guild of St. Luke.