The Triumph of Death is an oil panel painting by Pieter Bruegel the Elder painted c. 1562. It is currently housed in the Museo del Prado in Madrid, where it has been since 1827.
“The painting shows a panorama of an army of skeletons wreaking havoc across a blackened, desolate landscape. Fires burn in the distance, and the sea is littered with shipwrecks.” – source
Here is a link to the higher resolution version.
And different version;
Jan Brueghel’s 1597 version of the The Triumph of Death
These works show all the myriad ways that death takes us eventually, in full display on a hellish landscape of incredible detail and symbolism. This painting is rich with symbolism and allegories about death and human nature and often of death mocking and taunting us.
Regardless of our rank in society death will come for us all. Our belongings and status are temporary.
Within this apocalyptic landscape are Bruegel’s own interpretations of several greek gods and myths. This painting much like the triptych that I covered in a previous post about a detail from Hieronymus Bosch’s The Garden of Earthly Delights. There is layer upon layer upon layer of meaning and interpretation of earlier works and many influences – from mythology to the church.
The “triumph of death” motif was popular during the medieval period. The underlying message in these works is that death is inevitable.
Bruegel has also painted some of the most beautiful winter landscapes, and is one of my all time favorite painters of any time period.
***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.