Colnaghi Foundation Journal 04 - Page 26

A curious truncation of Aegidius Sadeler’s Wisdom Conquers Ignorance
With bitter irony, the nearby skull is crowned with
laurel, its withered leaves symbolizing the triumph of
death while also mocking the immortality that poets
promise the subjects of their panegyrics. Fleeting
military glory is suggested by lustrous armour in which
a skull – presumably the viewer’s – is unnervingly
reflected (fig. 3), and by a pistol. That its muzzle points
toward yet another skull constitutes a rather emphatic
memento mori.
Fig. 3 / Detail of fig. 2.
Fig. 4 / Detail of fig. 2.
A red velvet cloth covers the table on the right. Strewn
over its surface is a lavish assortment of jewels and
A curious truncation of Aegidius Sadeler’s Wisdom Conquers Ignorance
coins, all devalued by death. Prominent among them
is Leone Leoni’s medal honouring the youthful Philip
II,9 who inherited Charles V’s globe-spanning empire,
but who died in 1598 frustrated in his ambitions and
a witness to the diminution of his realm. In front of
the globe is a gold watch10 that denotes the inexorable
passage of time, and a bowl of flowers, whose
drooping blossoms allude to the withering of mortal
beauty and the brevity of life. Nearby, a pair of dice
and playing cards evoke the vagaries of fate while a
shattered vase emphasizes the fragility of life in which
well-being can be destroyed in an instant (fig. 4).11


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