The triumph of death

Click to embiggen. This pic is pretty big, and swarming with detail.

I first saw the famous Bruegel painting on the cover of Black Sabbath’s Greatest hits.

The album cover showed some details, but also listed the artist so I was able to seek it out later. There is so much to take in.

The people being herded into a church, which of course is just a trap:

The bizarre detail that the dead soldiers are looting and rapine, not just killing:

As well as the hopeless looking guy above, who is drawing a long sword.

Back in the distance we see evidence of more battles and slaughter:

And gruesome reminders of death at hands of civil society, with a decapitation and evidence of many poor souls broken on the wheel:There are hideously brutal descriptions of “breaking on the wheel” if you have the stomach for it, in history books. (The Wikipedia entry linked above is actually fairly tame!) Ironically most people think of iron maidens and the pear of anguish and that sort of thing, which probably existed only as enlightenment era museum displays. Real medieval torture was a bit less gothic, but still a barbarous prelude to the execution. (Most of the tortures used back then would ultimately be fatal even if the victim was not hung, beheaded, or burned at the climax.) Aldous Huxley’s The Devils of Loudun is a fascinating study of a real witch hunt and trial, and the description there of the torture undergone by a character is similarly terrible.

Anyway the Triumph of Death was a fairly common theme for late medieval artists, like the memento mori, intended to remind us of our mortality and that death conquers all.

I’ve often thought Bruegel’s painting could be an awesome basis for a diorama, but never had the energy to really plan it out. Minifigs made a cart with skeletons “recruiters” that looks an awful lot like the one in the lower left of the image above.

You can get a recast here (I probably will some day — if only for the skeleton lantern bearer…there’s a hireling for you!).

Anyway Bruegel always leads me to Bosch, the much more famous proto-surrealist. Check out this site devoted to these two medieval artists.

And these amazing figurines (alas, too large a scale!) based on Bosch and Bruegel’s demons.

UPDATE: I just realized the big picture above cuts off the left margin of the this painting. Here’s another, smaller version which is more intact, showing the dying king in the lower left corner more clearly.

UPDATE 2: I did acquire the “Skeleton recruiting party”: see the pics here and here.

Advertisements
Published in: on April 15, 2010 at 10:55 am  Comments (9)  
Tags: , , , ,

The URI to TrackBack this entry is: https://mikemonaco.wordpress.com/2010/04/15/the-triumph-of-death/trackback/

RSS feed for comments on this post.

9 CommentsLeave a comment

  1. Ah, Valley of the Four Winds. Classic stuff.

    If you can dig up the VotFW hex-and-counter wargame, though, I’ll crown you a geek among men.

  2. there’s no theoretical reason a company couldn’t cast in-scale replicas (assuming they don’t want gargantuan busch demons) there’s no copyright.

    somebody should get on that.

    • Now that I look more closely the “tree man with details” may actually be about 25mm scale. $130 is a little steep though.
      I sure wish I knew someone with some kind of contacts with a figure company though, maybe a good one like Reaper. But I just can’t think of anyone who have any contacts or pull with those guys. 🙂 Certainly not, say, an artist who uses their stuff on a show or anything. So I just wouldn’t know where to start.

  3. Good Job, Mr. M,

    Black Sabbath, History, Wikipedia, Huxley, Minifigs, Bosch, and that incredible link to those figurines! I can’t believe you crammed so much goodness into it!

    My brain is overwhelmed…

    Exquisite post, Mike.

    • Thanks! Next week I’ll have to post something about the myth of Icarus, the Bruegel painting of his fall, the W.H. Auden poem about that painting, and the Iron Maiden song “Flight of Icarus,” (which seems to be largely a riff on the poem), that Borges story about the old man with wings who falls out of the sky, and some angel figures Heritage made for Knights & Magick, which look like they are falling… six degrees of dorkery. This shit writes itself. 🙂

      It’s kind of weird that the Sabbath album cover is reversed. I was trying to figure out what was wrong with the thumbnail.
      BTW while I was looking for a big image online I discovered that Bruegel the Younger made copies of most (all) the Elder’s paintings, and they aren’t too bad.

  4. Thank you for this.
    My theory on the Sabbath cover: By flipping the image, we get the dark area in the sky behind the text in the upper RH corner… plus the little bell right next to the text (a noise/music/doom reference). I suspect that it was a good call on the designer’s part since now all of the hordes of skeletons and damned appear to be marching left to right, leading us all back tot he title and that little bell in the upper LH corner.
    Breugel is an art god.

    • That sounds pretty convincing!

  5. […] and teaching about designing games. I also told Mark Morrison about Sword & Dowkery’s blog post on Bruegel’s The Triumph of Death and lead/tin miniature figures based on the skeleton party in the […]


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

This Stuff is REALLY Cool

Young scholars enthusiastic to tell you about COOL RESEARCH STUFF

Fail Squad Games

Fail Squad Games

Cigar Box Battle

An online resource blog for gamers and geeks focused on wargames miniatures and board games and role playing games

terribleminds: chuck wendig

Chuck Wendig: Freelance Penmonkey

Save Vs. Dragon

"We are here on Earth to fart around. Don't let anybody tell you any different."--Kurt Vonnegut

POWER WORD KILL

Old School Roleplaying and related musings

Hobgoblin Orange

My return to the world of miniature figure painting and RPGs

booksandopinions.com

The Book Reviews You Can Trust!

Dawn of the Lead

Zombies and Miniature Wargaming

The WordPress.com Blog

The latest news on WordPress.com and the WordPress community.

hosercanadian

Miniature Motivation

Take On Rules

Jeremy Friesen - a poor soul consumed by gaming.

Age of Dusk

Roleplaying, reviews and associated paraphernalia.

Roll to Disbelieve

"We are here on Earth to fart around. Don't let anybody tell you any different."--Kurt Vonnegut

A Book of Creatures

A Complete Guide to Entities of Myth, Legend, and Folklore

Making the Past

Diary of an apprentice swordsmith

Ancient & Medieval Wargaming

Using De Bellis Antiquitatis, with the odd diversion...

Riffing Religion

Prophets should be mocked. I'm doing my part.

Cirsova

An encyclopedia of the Cirsovan empire, thoughts on Gaming, Music and more.

2 Warps to Neptune

Surveying the Gen X landscape and the origins of geek

Inside the Shadowbox

Rolling the dice. Writing the words. Pushing the buttons. Eating the bacon. Smiling and waving.

Dagger and Brush, Daggerandbrush, dagger brush

Miniature painting, wargaming terrain tutorials, reviews, interviews and painting guides

Fractalbat

A lair for gaming, sci-fi, comics, and other geekish pursuits.

tenfootpole.org

I bought this stuff and read it so you don't have to.

Role Play Craft

Crafting ideas, options, and modules for your role playing campaign.

The Rambling Roleplayer

A collection of advice, essays, and rambling rants about tabletop gaming and other geekiness. Often updated Monday-ishly.

Sheppard's Crook

The occasional blog of a closet would -be wargamer and modeller

10 Bad Habits

Probably not the Justin Howe you were looking for

The Weekly Sift

making sense of the news one week at a time

inthecitiesdotcom

Just another WordPress.com site

Lost in Time

"What happened to Claw Carver?"

chieflyill

gaming, graphics, and genrefication

Stuffed Crocodile

Mazes, Martians, Mead

Metropollywog

Role-Playing Games, Medieval History, Assorted Legends and Myths, and My Stupid Life.

%d bloggers like this: