Allegory of vanity, c 18th century.
© Science Museum / Science & Society Picture Library
This is a wax model of a female head depicting life and death. One side shows a beautiful woman; the other shows the head exposed as a skull and with worms and snails on and around it. The head is mounted on a base which has an inscription attached: 'Vanitas Vanitatum & omia Vanitas Ecc: Cap i/V2'. This is from the Bible, Ecclesiastes, chap 1, verse 2, which is translated in full in the New English Bible as "Emptines, emptines, says the speaker, emptines, all is empty". The model is European, posibly from the 18th century.