An Earthly Meal by Candlelight

by Gary Hickin

An Earthly Meal by Candlelight
I hope that the following explanation of this image may be of some interest to those interested in this genre, popular with Renaissance artists, particularly Dutch and Flemish masters. Still life in the vanitas style is full of symbolic imagery centred upon the futility and transcience of existence, although the genre sounds pretty depressing it can result in very interesting images that provide a lot of food for thought. My original ‘Earthly Meal’ still life featured a recently snuffed out candle, symbolic of the end of life, I decided to produce another version with the candle burning- this time not only to symbolise life and the passing of time but also of the Sun. The two round stones to the right, one grey and one with browns etc. are symbolic of the Moon and the Earth in an approaching total eclipse position. The broken egg symbolises birth with the dried flower representing the memory of youth. The skull , symbolic of death, is a fairly traditional element in vanitas still life, often a human one(!) but one of a bird will do just fine! The pewter tankard measure and bread is a straight forward reference to food and drink necessary for our existence. The pewter porringer (bowl), shell spoon and plate are again items symbolic of the things that are necessary for our journey through life and also our ingenuity in making them- a subtle reference to this is the prehistoric stone scraper tool located bottom left. The oak leaves blowing in from the dark exterior (the unknown that lies beyond) refer to the autumn of our existence.
Anyway, happy days!
Cheers, Gary
Uploaded27/12/2010 - 12:13
CategoryStill Life
Shutter Speed4 sec
Focal Length35mm

Posted 27/12/2010 - 12:36 Link
What an amazing amount of thought goes into these still life pictures of yours Gary. Fascinating to read of the symbolism associated with the objects. I personally think it is good that we are reminded of our fleeting time on the planet. Helps to get things into perspective. Thanks for sharing. Happy days indeed
Great simplicity is only won by an intense moment or by years of intelligent effort. T.S Eliot

Gear Not enough!!
My not so new website
Posted 27/12/2010 - 12:43 Link
Another exquisite still life.
Posted 27/12/2010 - 13:56 Link
Thank for your explanation. This is another wonderful photo from you.
Posted 27/12/2010 - 17:07 Link
Wonderful still life as usual, and top explanation as well. Many thanks for both

Mat W

My Flickr: link
Posted 27/12/2010 - 17:10 Link
Lost with the explanation but another great picture with amazing light.Regards Peter
Posted 27/12/2010 - 18:27 Link
Stunning work, Gary, whether you tell the fascinating thoughts which lie behind your pictures or not, they always delight and impress.
Best wishes,


"These places mean something and it's the job of a photographer to figure-out what the hell it is."
Robert Adams
"The camera doesn't make a bit of difference.  All of them can record what you are seeing.  But, you have to SEE."
Ernst Hass
My website:
Posted 28/12/2010 - 08:50 Link
I liked its previous version too, but this one is better in my opinion. Its warmer colours and the candle light fill it with life.
My website
Posted 28/12/2010 - 09:01 Link
Hi Gary
thanks for not just sharing an unbelievable great picture with us, but also for your great explanation. I like this a lot to not just look at a picture but to get some background from the photgrapher - what he had in mind, how he made it, etc....
Your work is a class of its own. In the forum I once saw a question: "Which hotographer has its own style". I think - you are a photographer with a very own style - your pictures all have your amazing signiture. I am really fascinated by these art works.

Colors are the lack of darkness

You find more of my pictures here: or on my web page:
Posted 28/12/2010 - 18:14 Link
I find it amazing how much thought, feeling and effort go into these still-lifes of yours, Gary. They are very very good and the explantation of the various elements adds to their great appeal.
Posted 28/12/2010 - 18:18 Link
Another wonderful photo just amazing Gary i will give this much more of a go in the new year, give you a run for your money lol
PPG link
Posted 28/12/2010 - 20:38 Link
Thank you for the sharing of the series and this detailed explanation, Gary. I'm visiting your portfolio and web page again and again and show them to my friends who are painters and teachers of design, and they are amazed.

They are all adorable and reveal your background and also how much delicate effort and taste lie behind every detail!
Edited by nonur: 28/12/2010 - 20:46
Posted 29/12/2010 - 08:23 Link
just amazing
playing firm but fair all the way
Gary Hickin
Posted 29/12/2010 - 12:42 Link
A big thank you for all your comments, I'm really pleased that the explanation was of interest/help.
Cheers, Gary
Edited by Gary Hickin: 29/12/2010 - 12:42
Gary Hickin
Posted 18/01/2011 - 19:20 Link
Update- this shot has managed to sneak into the PPG premier collection. Many thanks again for all your feedback.
Cheers, Gary
Posted 18/01/2011 - 21:03 Link
Which is where it deserves to be, congratulations
Great simplicity is only won by an intense moment or by years of intelligent effort. T.S Eliot

Gear Not enough!!
My not so new website
Posted 18/01/2011 - 21:10 Link
Amazing image, I would have sworn it was a painting.
The lighting, the composition, all just superb.
Gary Hickin
Posted 19/01/2011 - 13:26 Link
Thank you Jim and Tim,your comments are very much appreciated.
Cheers, Gary

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