Wielding his scythe while driving an ox-drawn chariot, Death triumphs over kings, bishops, and popes. The 14th-century Italian poet Petrarch wrote The Triumphs, arranged such that first, Love triumphs; then Love is overcome by Chastity, Chastity by Death, Death by Fame, Fame by Time and Time by Eternity. He wrote the section on Death, shortly after Laura, a woman for whom he felt intense but unrequited love, succumbed to the plague in 1348. In Georg Pencz’s vivid interpretation of Death’s triumph, we are made aware of the certainty of our death, but we are left ignorant of where we shall go thereafter. The Latin caption may be loosely understood to say: “From the moment of birth, we begin to die and the end hangs from the beginning. Each person’s death awaits him, sooner or later.”
Credit Line: Text courtesy of the Minneapolis Institute of Art (CC BY 3.0).