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Pieter Claesz, Vanitas Still Life, 1630

A snuffed-out candle, an empty glass, a watch and a skull. This is no random collection of objects. Each one conveys a message of mortality. Memento mori – remember you must die.

The Haarlem artist Pieter Claesz became well-known for his still-lifes featuring a limited palette. In this painting, for example, besides using brown and green, he only used a dash of blue for the ribbon of the watch. He needed no more colour than that to make it look true to life.

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