Death and the Miser Jan Provoost painting

Death and the Miser (16th Century) By Jan Provoost

Death and the Miser is an allegorical oil painting by Jan Provoost.

Death and the Miser was a popular motif of the time, a warning against the futility of hoarding earthly possessions and making them the prize of our lives.

In this painting, the Miser tries to buy his freedom, tries to bribe death. But death is inevitable, and the money and possessions that we’ve spent our lives accumulating will be useless to us in our final hour.

The image below shows two of the outer doors. The inner ‘doors’ show the painting “St. Nicolas with donor and St. Godelieve with donor”.


Death and the Miser Jan Provoost
Death and the Miser by Jan Provoost

Click here to see Hieronymus Bosch’s version of the Death and Miser.

“The world says: “You have needs ― satisfy them. You have as much right as the rich and the mighty. Don’t hesitate to satisfy your needs; indeed, expand your needs and demand more.” This is the worldly doctrine of today. And they believe that this is freedom. The result for the rich is isolation and suicide, for the poor, envy and murder.”

― Fyodor Dostoyevsky,The Brothers Karamazov

Suggested reading: A Guide to Creating a Minimalist Home

***A memento mori is a reminder of death. It is a key practice in Stoicism but is not unique to it. It can be a simple visual reminder or quote or a more serious mediation on death.  Stoics use it to remind themselves of how short and fragile life is and therefore how much we have to be grateful for, to live virtuous lives, and not to waste our time.

In this series, each Monday, I will post a memento mori from various sources, either from the primary Stoic texts themselves or other sources. You can read my other Memento Mori entires here.

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