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“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.

The painter of this masterpiece, Pieter Bruegel the Elder is sometimes referred to as “the Elder”, to distinguish him from the many later painters in his family, including his son Pieter Brueghel the Younger (1564-1638). Pieter Bruegel the Elder dropped the ‘h’ from his name and signed his paintings as Bruegel from 1559 onwards.

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


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


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