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Joy of Museums

Museums, Art Galleries and Historical Sites

“The Triumph of Death” by Pieter Bruegel the Elder

"The Triumph of Death" by Pieter Bruegel the Elder

“The Triumph of Death” by Pieter Bruegel the Elder

“The Triumph of Death” by Pieter Bruegel, the Elder depicts an army of skeletons wreaking havoc across a burnt and burning desolate landscape. Fires burn in the distance, and there are shipwrecks in the sea. In this scorched and barren landscape, the skeletons massacre the living, who seem to be surrounded. People are herded into a coffin-shaped trap decorated with crosses, while a skeleton on horseback is killing people with a scythe. The painting depicts all of humanity from peasants and soldiers to nobles as well as a king and a cardinal being overtaken by the “Triumph of Death”. The scene is this painting is full of sub-stories of human vanity and our inability to escape death.

Pieter Bruegel the Elder

Pieter Bruegel the Elder (1525 – 1569) was the most significant artist of Dutch and Flemish Renaissance painting, a painter known for his landscapes and peasant scenes. He influenced the Dutch Golden Age painting with his innovative choices of subject matter, as one of the first generation of artists to grow up when religious subjects had ceased to be the dominant subject matter of painting.

All his most famous paintings come from the decade before his early death, when he was in his early forties, and at the height of his powers. He dropped the ‘h’ from his name and signed his paintings as Bruegel, and he is sometimes referred to as “Peasant Bruegel”, to distinguish him from the many later painters in his family, including his son Pieter Brueghel the Younger (1564-1638).

The Triumph of Death

  • Title:                        The Triumph of Death
  • Dutch:                     De triomf van de Doods
  • Artist:                      Pieter Bruegel the Elder
  • Year:                        1562
  • Medium:                Oil on panel
  • Dimensions:          117 cm × 162 cm (46 in × 63.8 in)
  • Museum:                Prado Museum, Museo del Prado

Pieter Brueghel

A Tour of European Museums

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“The habit doesn’t make the monk.“
– Spanish Proverb

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Photo Credit: Pieter Brueghel the Elder [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

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