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Still-life with Musical Instruments

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Still-life with Musical Instruments

Not on display

This small painting on copper shows musical instruments, books with well-thumbed pages, an hour-glass, and a clock on a table with a colourful patterned cloth. All the objects relate to the popular still life theme of ‘vanitas’, which refers to the transience of life. Two stringed instruments, an upturned lute in the background and a small bowed instrument known as a pochette or kit in the foreground, together with an oboe, symbolise the ephemeral nature of music. The hour-glass and clock record time’s passage. At the top left is the artist's monogram. On the other side of the copper sheet is an unfinished painting of a man's head.

Glossary Open

Still life

A painting, drawing or photograph depicting inanimate objects.


A still life in which the elements remind the viewer of human mortality. A common element is the skull. This was a popular subject in 17th century Holland.

Still life, Vanitas


  • Acc. No. NG 1937
  • Medium Oil on copper
  • Size 39.30 x 58.00 cm
  • Credit Bequest of the 11th Marquess of Lothian 1941