Friday, January 4, 2013

Death and the Miser by Hieronymus Bosch

Death and the Miser- 1490
The painting Death and the Miser by Hieronymus Bosch, around the year of 1490, was designed to help people remember that death is inevitable despite the power of wealth. As you can see in the picture a man on his death bed is reaching for a bag of gold. Around the room are various creatures of death that lurk and tempt the man. There appears to be stages in life depicted within the picture. In the front of the picture are weapons and armor, followed by older age with wealth and finally ending in death. The picture is hosted in the National Gallery of Art in Washington DC.

Hieronymus Bosch lived most of his life around the Duchy of Brabant (Netherlands). He is one of five children of which both his father and four siblings were painters. He married Aleyt Goyaerts van den Meerveen who was from a wealthy family and they lived in her inherited home. Artistic scholars view his paintings as a result of ultra orthodox beliefs of his location and time that mixed religion with local folklore.

Such paintings come from the Early Netherlandish and Northern Renaissance period where Gothic works were still popular. The region was under Burgundian influence and therefore earned wealth by making luxury goods and products. Such works were a result of local free thought and artistic experimentation of the period. Many of the productions were sent to the open market in Germany and Italy.

Around the time this painting was produced the Duchy of Brabant was given to the House of Hapsburg through the dowry of Mary of Burgundy in 1477. The area was considered wealthy and markets could be found in the largest of towns in the provinces. Two influential Chancellors by the name of Hugonet and the Sire d'Humbercourt were executed in Ghent for having correspondence with France. Upon her marriage two centuries of contention between the Hapsburgs and France began.

It should also be remembered that the plague had some influence in the Netherlands during this time and may have had some impact on the region. The work could have some association with the painters perceptions and fears within his life. This was a period where Christopher Columbus was setting sail to find a new trade route to India and Leonardo di Vinci was cranking out artistic endeavors. Brabant's fleets were destroyed while its cloth trade was one of the best in the world. It wouldn't be a far stretch to even consider the painting as a representation of the interest of outsiders in local wealth.

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