Object Record

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Collection Museum of Fine Arts
Title Emblems of Peace
Object ID MFA-38.03
Object Name Painting
Description Emblems of Peace by William Michael Harnett demonstrates the artist's technical ability and is rich with symbolism. In a dark room, books, a broken flute, and a pipe spilling ashes are haphazardly strewn across a table. The scene is both unsettling and hopeful. Drawing on a traditional still life theme, Harnett uses the painting to symbolize the transience of life. The still life is reminiscent of the popular vanitas paintings that were prominent in the Netherlands during the 16th and 17th centuries. Images created in the vanitas style were intended to remind viewers of impermanence, the futility of pleasure and the inevitability of death.

Harnett uses the burning candle and aging papers to suggest deterioration and contribute to a melancholy mood. He has also included items that celebrate love and redemption. A medieval volume by Dante is pictured and suggests Christian salvation in life after death. Additionally, the sheet music featured is "Papageno's Song," a love song from Mozart's The Magic Flute.
Artist HARNETT, William Michael
Date 1890
Medium Oil on canvas
Dimensions H-27.5 W-33.75 inches
Credit line Gift of Charles T. and Emilie Shean
On Exhibit Yes, Michele and Donald D'Amour Museum of Fine Arts