Hieronymus Bosch’s “Death and the Miser” is one of the most well-known works of Northern Renaissance painting. The painting, part of a triptych, depicts the final moments of a dying miser as he faces his mortality and awaits judgment. The work is thematically complex, exploring themes related to greed, selfishness, and mortality.
Bosch’s use of symbolism is prevalent throughout the work. The central figure of Death looms over the miser with a menacing gesture while pointing towards heaven in an attempt to elicit repentance. In contrast, the miser clings desperately to his earthly possessions, represented by scattered coins and jewelry on his bed.
The intricate details included in “Death and the Miser” allude to other works by Bosch as well as other artists. For instance, hidden within the scene are references to John Wycliffe’s criticisms of the Catholic Church at that time. Moreover, art historians have used infrared reflectography techniques to analyze Bosch’s initial sketches for this piece, which reveal deviations from traditional artistic conventions.