Death and the Miser (c. 1490) by Hieronymous BOSCH

Death and the Miser - Hieronymous BOSCH - c.1494 - 1516

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Artwork Information

TitleDeath and the Miser
ArtistHieronymous BOSCH
Datec.1494 - 1516
MediumOil on Wood
Dimensions31 x 93 cm
Art MovementNorthern Renaissance
Current LocationNational Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C.

About Death and the Miser

“Death and the Miser” is a Northern Renaissance oil on wood painting by Hieronymous Bosch, created circa 1494 – 1516. With dimensions of 31 x 93 cm, the artwork falls under the genre of religious painting and is part of a series by the same title. The artwork is housed at the National Gallery of Art in Washington, D.C.

The artwork presents a keenly detailed and allegorical tableau embodying themes of morality and transience. In the foreground, a miser is depicted on his deathbed, reaching out, in tension between a bag of gold proffered by a demon and a crucifix presented by an angel. The details bristle with symbolic import: a figure of Death breaches the threshold, clutching an arrow at the end of a string, suggesting the impending finality of life. In the richly textured environment, illustrating the earthly distractions and sins, various creatures lurk symbolically—a toad and reptiles at the bottom, signifiers of decay and sin, and two figures above the bed, one blowing a bubble symbolizing the fragility and transience of life, adding to the work’s grave memento mori sentiment. Bosch’s meticulous brushwork renders with delicate precision the textures of the drapery, armor, and the wood grain of the chest, encapsulating the material world that the miser, confronting his mortality, must confront and ultimately renounce. The artwork is a vivid encapsulation of Bosch’s capacity to weave complex iconography and human drama into his scenes, presenting a poignant meditation on the tension between material obsession and spiritual salvation.

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