Revelations: Triumph of Death

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Revelations
Curated by Arsam Yazdani

Pieter Bruegel I, Triumph of Death, 1562

Can't get much more apocalyptic than skeletons battling it out with the living. This scene gives the viewer a disturbing, yet funny, glimpse into the mind of Bruegel. The entire battle is set in a sickly yellow-green hue, emphasizing the awful scene.

Of course, all of Bruegel's pieces have political context and represent the political climate of his period. Here, he represents a crazy scene with all life being taken off of Earth indiscriminately. The high-set horizon allows the scene to take over the canvas, with chaos everywhere. There are two points of view in the piece, which I found fascinating in their integration. Firstly comes Death, obviously, on his white horse on the left side of the painting, leading his troops to destroy life. But secondly comes the political message. On the bottom of the piece, Bruegel depicts individuals in different stations in life. No one is safe from Death, no matter how wealthy. He shows a king, a cardinal, chess players, a couple, and a knight - and all are slaughtered.

This piece is all too similar to the events occurring in Antwerp during this period and Bruegel's message is clear: death cares not about social class nor status.

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