Allegory of Transience, Jacob Matham, after Karel van Mander (I), 1599
Every element in this charged depiction recalls the inevitability of death, including the huge bouquet. The inscription on the vase admonishes us to ‘Stay vigilant, for you know neither the day nor the hour’. The flowers, and by extension, humans blossom, wither, and ultimately die. These gorgeous paper floral treasures, however, have withstood the ravages of time for more than four centuries.