BRUEGEL, Pieter the Elder
(b. ca. 1525, Brogel, d. 1569, Brussel)

The Triumph of Death (detail)

c. 1562
Oil on panel
Museo del Prado, Madrid

The detail shows the lower right-hand corner of the painting. The oppressively crowded composition is filled by bustling groups; only the couple playing music stands out with tranquillity. A buxom young woman sings from a musical score, while a seated knight turning toward her accompanies her on the lute. This is a small island of youth, beauty and harmony in the midst of a destructive, raging storm. The flute lying next to them is a traditional erotic symbol: the two are lovers. Death, however, is already behind them. He uses his mushroom-like instrument as if it were a viola da braccio. Perhaps because of the grotesque manner in which he draws his bow by reaching from underneath, or because of his deformed grin, the observer has the impression that his music consists of wild, excrutiating notes. He disturbs the idyll and mocks the art.