Young Couple and a Skeleton (Vanitas)

Christoph Gertner

Christoph Gertner - Young Couple and a Skeleton (Vanitas)
Particularly in 16th-century Italy, numerous experiments were carried out with supports for painting, and many artists were fascinated with varied kinds of stone. Paintings on stone originated as early as Antiquity, their popularity, however, rose during the Renaissance, and one of the centres of production was the imperial court in Prague. Rudolf II himself was an enthusiastic collector of stones and minerals, admiring the comessi di pietre dure (Florentine mosaic). Gertner probably got acquainted with the technique of painting on stone in Prague, thanks to Hans von Aachen, who had learnt it in Italy. Gertner aptly chose black slate for the background of this nocturnal scene. The painting captured a young couple in a loving embrace on the bed, watched by Death. The message of this work suggests that people should be aware of the briefness and fleetingness of life (vanitas), and at the same time it points out the moral lesson that it is dangerous to indulge in sensual pleasures.
measurements: height 42 cm
width 39 cm
material: slate
technique: oil
inventory number: O 14811
gallery collection: Collection of Old Masters