Death and the Miser, c. 1485/1490
Here Bosch shows us the last moments in the life of a miser just before his eternal fate is decided. A little monster peeping out from under the bed tempts him with a bag of gold, while an angel kneeling at right encourages him to acknowledge the crucifix in the window. Death, holding an arrow, enters through a door at left. This type of deathbed scene—replete with symbolism and oppositions of good and evil—derives from an early printed book, the Ars Moriendi (Art of Dying), which enjoyed great popularity in the second half of the 15th century.
Hieronymus Bosch was born around 1450 in the town of ’s-Hertogenbosch (Bois-le-Duc) in the Netherlands. Both his grandfather and his father, Anthonius van Aken, were painters. Bosch’s œuvre consists of some 30 paintings, all undated. He made paintings for learned secular patrons, such as Philip the Fair, Duke of Burgundy, who in 1504 commissioned a large altarpiece of the Last Judgment, as well as for religious institutions. Bosch executed paintings for the religious confraternity the Brotherhood of Our Lady, of which he was a member, and created designs for a stained-glass window for the Cathedral of Saint John in ’s-Hertogenbosch.