Vanitas: Skull with Green Mantle and Two Bones
Early 18th century, Oil on copper
This sober painting is almost playful in its composition, presenting a skull with deep eye sockets and intact teeth, adorned like a carnival mask, with crossed bones supporting it but not actually resting on anything. It is not clear how the grouping can remain upright in that position, while the beautiful bright green fabric extends, uninterrupted, behind it. We may date the work to the 18th century, based on the modernity of the pictorial treatment and the use of colour. It is an unconventional Vanitas. It is not frightening, nor does it encourage meditation: at most, the presence of the shimmering mantle leads the viewer to dwell on the inevitability of death with serene and reasoned composure. Undoubtedly of a high quality, it is the least disturbing of Franco Maria Ricci's many works of this genre.