Death and the Miser Hieronymus Bosch Buy Art Prints Now
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Tom Gurney BSc (Hons) is an art history expert with over 20 years experience
Published on June 19, 2020 / Updated on October 14, 2023
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Hieronymus Bosch was born over five hundred years ago, and as a result it is very difficult to discern the meanings of some of his paintings.

They are out of context in today's world, and there are no recorded examples of his thoughts on anything, let alone his artwork. However, there are some paintings that do not need to be within any time context, and 'Death and the Miser' falls into that category.

It is a painting with a common topic: death. Since death is one of the few things that transcends art and fashion and follows every generation ever born, the painting remains truly relevant today.

It also deals with greed and selfishness in the form of the miser, represented here in two parts; first as he was when he was in full health, rich and strong, then as he is on his deathbed.

One interesting thing about the painting is the uncertainty left for the viewer, even now. The miser is reaching for the bag of gold held by the demon at his bedside, even as Death himself approaches.

The angel sits nearby, face upturned toward another demon, and it is not clear what the resolution will be for the miser's soul. In a very religious, very orthodox time, this painting would have been a moral painting as well as a visually appealing one.

There is a figure of Christ above the bed, high in the wall with a light shining onto the miser in his deathbed. Perhaps this is a sign that the miser was intended to display the last minute turning from sin to Christ, showing that it was the only way to save his soul and that it was the best decision to make when facing Death coming through the door.

It is the complexity of details such as these that makes the painting fascinating even now, despite the fact that more than five hundred years have passed since the birth of its painter. There are some messages that truly transcend time, and 'Death and the Miser' by Hieronymus Bosch fits that category better than most.