French School 17th Century
A Vanitas Still Life with a Skull, a Butterfly and a Lily
In this small vanitas the skull is clearly meant to symbolise death, while the white lily is a common symbol of grief and mourning. Butterflies can be read as a symbol of transformation and metamorphosis. So if we read this work from left to right it might be interpreted as the stages of death: the cycle of life, death itself, and finally grief for those left behind.
The inscription painted on the reverse of the panel reads 'SURGITE MORTEM' which roughly translates as ‘Rise up Death’.