The Beckoning Art Page

Hieronymous Bosch - Death of the Miser

Revised 15 October 1996

The Death of the Miser was painted circa 1500 by Hieronymous Bosch. It is oil on panel, and measures 12X37 inches. It is believed by some that this painting was never completed. Some of the underdrawing is still visible (in the form of perspective lines). Also note the muted tones that give Death of the Miser a look almost like grisaille (pronounced grizay). For this painting, Bosch may have been influenced by a book entitled Ars moriendi

Even before Death has actually taken the miser's life, many little gremlins are stealing the goods that the miser locked away during his life. The human figure putting a gold coin in the chest at the foot of the bed is the miser when he was younger. The fact that he is holding his rosary even as he hordes his money away is likely a commentary on the state of affairs during the time of Bosch (and even today, as little has changed in the world). It is possible that the knightly armour and weapons in the foreground indicate that the miser was once a noble person. This would then symbolize the point that anyone can succumb to vice. It would therefore behoove the viewer to take care to avoid falling into the same trap the miser fell in to. Notice too that the sword in the bottom right is possibly rusted, and is certainly unused.

Yet even amongst the general gloominess of the painting, there is a shaft of light coming through the window at the upper left. This shaft of light, seeming to pass right through the figure of Christ on the cross, shows that even as death is ready to take the miser, it is not to late to make amends.


Ars Moriendi - "The art of dying [well]" A book believed to have been written circa 1460 that preached Christian fortitude in the face of adversity. It is possibly one of the first "self help" books.
grisaille - monochromatic painting in shades of gray