6 Nov 2012 12:30pm - 2:30pm CRASSH, Seminar room SG1, Ground floor


Hanneke Grootenboer  (University of Oxford)
The Animated Still Life


Jose Ramón Marcaida Lopez  (University of Cambridge)
All things must pass. Playful vanity in seventeenth-century Spanish still-life painting


Hanneke Grootenboer, Dutch seventeenth-century still life paintings usually show 'dead nature': nicely arranged things such as golden goblets, plates carrying lobster or olives, smoke utensils or pieces of china against a dark background. Traditionally perceived as stilled and silenced, a closer look reveals how those things have often been presented as rather animated, as if they were protagonists in a narrative, or as characters that have a life of their own. Sometimes objects 'noisily' interact with other objects or entire compositions seem to anticipate a kind of action as they appear on the verge of falling apart. Starting from the idea that it was only after the invention of cinema that paintings were conceived of as immobile, pictorial freeze frames, this paper will explore moments of movement and action in the stilled yet animated world of still life.


José Ramón Marcaida, Seventeenth-century Spanish still-life painting is commonly associated with contemporary religious doctrines about the caducity of existence and the vanity of earthly glories. And yet, when looking at the way things are depicted in these works, one perceives another sense of “vanity” being conveyed: a celebration of technical skill and artistic talent devoted to illusionism and visual trickery. This ability to blur the boundaries between fiction and reality would be much appreciated by Spanish Baroque culture -from poets and playwrights to  intellectuals and patrons. This paper studies the representation of things in this context of fanciful creativity and  intense cultural exchange.



Open to all. No registration required

Part of the Things: Early Modern Material Cultures Seminar series.

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