Vanity (Frank Cadogan Cowper)

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Vanity, 1907.

Vanity is an oil painting in the Pre-Raphaelite style by Frank Cadogan Cowper, finished in 1907. The painting depicts a woman stealing a glance into a hand mirror. Perhaps she's so pleased with her own beauty she can't look away, or maybe she's so obsessed with perfection, she wants to ensure that there aren't any possible flaws. Like with most of the Pre-Raphaelites, the subject is an attractive young woman.

Cowper has expertly painted this piece; the designs and patterns on the clothing are fantastic, the pearls and opal on her head are exquisite, and the young woman's hair is golden and wispy. The nearly-black background draws your eye to the woman's contrasting pale skin.


My guess it that Cowper was probably trying to present a moral with this painting, perhaps that, even though the woman is extremely beautiful and everything about her is perfect, she would be extremely annoying to be around because of her self-obsession; all her beauty doesn't make her a good person. The reality is, she isn't real, Cowper, a man who painted beautiful women, created her to be this way. Maybe this shows more about how Cowper views women, or the women he chose to associate, rather than how women really are?