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Monday, July 4, 2011



Charles Allen Gilbert painted this and as you can see, it is a play on words as well as an optical illusion. I used to have this painting [a copy] and it scared my then-young sons—no wonder! If you look at it one way, you see a skull.
If you look at it another way, you see a woman sitting down at a vanity perhaps reaching for some makeup. I always thought that the artist was trying to say that too much vanity can lead to one’s death. Say you were walking down the street and you saw your reflection in the glass front of a store:  Of course, you’d stop and stare for that’s natural. But what if that store were on a corner and then you started walking—you might end up in traffic.

I knew the word “vanity” from the time I was little for my grandmother would catch me looking at myself in the mirror and she’d say, “Woman, thy name is vanity.” Really didn’t know what she meant but knew that word! Later on, she told me that her mother had said that to her; by then, I knew what the word meant. And then my mother said it to me and so I have passed that saying onto my own granddaughter.  The saying lives on! But as for Gilbert’s painting, if you have never seen it before, take time to take in his message and the wonderful optical illusion—scary one way and lovely the other just as vanity can be for "all is vanity!"

Sherry Hill

*Check out Wikipedia: Def Leppard has an album cover with this painting on it--Vanity.

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