Death and the miser by Hieronymus Bosch 1490


Death and the miser by Hieronymus Bosch 1490

This picture of Hieronymus Bosch goes back to 1490. It represents a man on his death-bed. An angel tries to draw the dying man's attention towards the crucifix, which faces the window, illuminated by a divine light. However, the man is more attracted by the purse that is given to him by a devil. Even at the very moment of his death, he remains primarily attached to his material possessions... Death has already come into the room, but the dying man does not realize yet that his redemption or damnation depends on the way he will live his death. Some hellish creatures try to tempt the miser, staying in his coffer, surrounding his clothing and weapons, entreating him not to leave his material possessions, since a man ready to sacrifice them is saved. Death is represented in a traditional way. It carries an arrow, which symbolizes his taking of the miser's life. The old man standing at the foot of the bed is probably a Doppelganger of the dying man, which continues to fill his coffer with money. This picture has been inspired by a 15th century book of prayer entitled: Ars Moriendi (the art of dying), an handbook of the proper way of dying. It included eleven scenes: the first five were temptations from the devil, which was inviting the dying man to sin through impiety, despair, impatience, vanity and avarice. The five following ones described states of mind inspired by an angel: faith, hope, patience, humility, and generosity. In the last scene, the angel took the soul of the dead to Heaven, whereas in Hell the devils let hear howls of rage. In Bosch's work, on the other hand, the outcome of the fight between devil and angel remains uncertain.

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