c. 1490 (210 Kb); Oil on wood, 93 x 31 cm (36 5/8 x 12 1/8 in); National Gallery of Art, Washington
Another of Bosch's panel paintings, Death and the Miser, serves as a warning to anyone who has grabbed at life's pleasures, without being sufficiently detached, and who is unprepared to die. Who can feel indifferent to this fable? In a long and concentrated Bosch sets out the whole painful scenario.
The naked and dying man has been a man of power: at the bed's foot, but sundered now by a low wall, lies his armour. His riches have come through combat; the sick man has fought for his wealth and stored it close to him. He appears twice, the second time in full health, soberly dressed because he hoards his gold, dense with satisfaction as he adds another coin. Demons lurk all around, death puts a leering head around the door (notice the sick man's surprise: death is never expected), and the final battle begins. It is one he must wage without his armour. Behind him, even now proffering gold, lurks a demon. Above the bed, expectant and interested, peers yet another demon. The outcome of the story is left undecided. We hope desperately that the miser will relinquish empty possessiveness and accept the truth of death.