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Allegory of Vanity: Lady with a Mirror

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Allegory of Vanity: Lady with a Mirror

ca. 1600
13 x 10 in. (33 x 25.4 cm)

Flemish artist
Frans van Mieris the Elder
Netherlands (1635 - 1681) Previous attribution

Object Type: Painting
Medium and Support: Oil on cradled panel
Credit Line: Bertha Buswell Bequest
Accession Number: 1955.132
Location: Currently on view
Link to this object
Collection: Buswell-Hochstetter Collection

This painting has all the elements of the Christian medieval tradition of an allegory of vanity, or the personification of all the temptations and vain pleasures of the world. The painter drew on a wide vocabulary of images to suggest the transience of the material world. In this painting, dressed in fine clothes and bedecked in jewels, the woman seems to be turning away from the mirror, the symbol of vanity. In reality, though, out of the corner of her eye she gazes approvingly at her own reflection. The mirror also represents the idea of false appearances; her jewels symbolize the dangerous allure of wealth. Fresh flowers, beautiful for only a few days, suggest the fleeting nature of beauty; the book on her table refers to earthly rather than spiritual knowledge.

[Gallery label text, 2005]

Bertha Hochstetter (Mrs. Henry) Buswell, Buffalo, NY; her bequest to the Gallery, 1941; lifetime interest held by her brother, Ralph Hochstetter, Buffalo, NY, until his death in 1955, when it passed to the Gallery

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