Samsara Series - Vanitas II by Alejandro Rosemberg

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Alejandro Rosemberg

Samsara Series - Vanitas II


52 x 80 cm | 20 1/4 x 31 1/4 in

Oil on canvas

  • First Place ($2,500 Cash Award) / Still Life

"This painting is based on two still-life subgenres: trompe-l'oeil (tricks of the eye) and vanitas.

Vanitas paintings refer to the futility and transience of worldly pleasures in the face of the daunting concept of death. Objects represented in these works generate a symbolic contrast between such aspects; on the one hand—the earthly world, accumulation and pleasure (such as knowledge, power, wealth, beauty, etc.) and on the other—fragility, transience and death.

In the work I am presenting, these two worlds are clearly dissociated; the representation of an antique Sorolla's seascape frame, painted in obsessive detail, surrounds the skeleton of a fish. While the skeleton represents death, the fish in the occidental culture is also a metaphor of a deep truth (that can be revealed if exposed) and for Christ (expectations of life after death).

Trompe-l'oeil, which confuses us as to what is real or just an illusion and introduces us to the ideas of deception, doubt or mystery, reinforces the concept of vanitas.

As Pedro Calderón de la Barca wrote:
'What is this life? A frenzy, an illusion,
A shadow, a delirium, a fiction. 
The greatest good's but little, and this life
Is but a dream, and dreams are only dreams.'"