Henrietta Richer Photography | ALL IS VANITY - VANITAS STILL LIFE.


March 09, 2018  •  1 Comment

And now for something completely different - gloriously dark and moody images.

While on holiday in northern Italy last summer, we visited a large number of museums and art collections. Personally, I'm more drawn to contemporary and modern art, rather than classic art, as it is more varied and generally less sombre.

IMG_5262-2IMG_5262-2 However, I'm also drawn to details and classic art is extremely detailed, many of the details have symbolic meanings, so seeing vast collections can be rather overwhelming.

However, those same details can also be quite entertaining ...... here are some iPhone photos of details that I took in Italy.



Above are a Saint's eyes!


I started to notice a preponderance of skulls.

Now, I've wanted to have my own skull to play with ever since I started digital photography seriously five years ago, and the search for one that I felt I could live with has been long and often seemed an impossible quest, until ....

One day in July last year, when on my way to a business meeting in the 11th arrondissement of Paris ,where I rarely venture, I came upon a scruffy antique shop ..... 


And there was Bathsheba, as I have christened her, after Thomas Hardy's heroine in the classic novel Far From The Madding Crowd (1874).

My go to place for photo props is the Emma's charity depot, not far from my home.

So, having found Bathsheba last summer, I went there a few weeks ago in search of pewter tableware and found these .....

And soon after I found a dead pheasant on the road side!

Serendipity or what?

Here is my Vanitas preshoot prop tray ....

The often quoted "ALL IS VANITY", is a statement at the beginning of the Book of Ecclesiastes in the Old Testament. It refers to the pointlessness of human activity, which is the major theme of the book, because of our mortality, the brevity of life.



Vanities, (Latin: , “vanity”) in art, is a genre of still-life painting that flourished in the Netherlands in the early 17th century.

vanities painting contains collections of objects symbolic of the inevitability of death and the transience and vanity of earthly achievements and pleasures.

The vanitas evolved from simple pictures of skulls and other symbols of death and transience frequently painted on the reverse sides of portraits during the late Renaissance. It had acquired an independent status by c. 1550 and by 1620 had become a popular genre.

Its development until its decline about 1650 was centred in Leiden, in the United Provinces of the Netherlands, an important seat of Calvinism, which emphasised humanity’s total depravity and advanced a rigid moral code.

Although a few vanities pictures include figures, the vast majority are pure still lifes, containing certain standard elements: symbols of arts and sciences (books, maps, and musical instruments), wealth and power (purses, jewelry, gold objects), and earthly pleasures (goblets, pipes, and playing cards); symbols of death or transience (skulls, clocks, burning candles, soap bubbles, and flowers). The peeled lemon in my still life, illustrates the bitterness of human experience.

After the main shots (above), I deconstructed the still life and had some chiaroscuro fun with the flowers and fruit .....


I hope you have enjoyed seeing these dark and moody images, as much as I have enjoyed creating them to share with you.

In a few weeks, I will be adding a new gallery of dark chiaroscuro images to my Shop, including the Vanities, fruit and other flowers.


Thank you for visiting,




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All photos © Henrietta Richer, unless otherwise stated.


Beauty Is In The Details




Magnifique travail.... Toutes mes félicitations.
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Portrait by Pauline Goyard.You can find her on FB.Portrait by Pauline Goyard.You can find her on FB.

Welcome to my blog:

My French Country Life.

I'm British born, but moved to France decades ago for love.

My blog is about my photography and my life in the French countryside, near Paris.

I create images that are greatly influenced by art, both past and present, that you can buy in the shop.

I'm happy to discuss comissions.









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