1525/30 – 1569

A masterpiece of Renaissance art by the Flemish painter Pieter Breughel the Elder. It is a scene of sheer horror, where every conceivable way of human death is portrayed. Death in its inevitability. Death in its terror. Death in its acceptance. Death, period. Typical to most Renaissance masterpieces is the way little dramas unfold upon closer inspection. At first glance you might see a mere battlefield, with its smoky airs and masses of men carrying banners in the foreground. Then you look closer and notice little scenes like a group of men falling from a table of cards, a king in an ermine cloak withering away, or a skeleton raping a fallen body (as Don Delillo puts it in Underworld, "The dead fucking the dying"). Perhaps most striking of all is a man drawing his sword against the Grim Reaper himself – fighting the unwinnable battle to the last. There is a striking humanity in this macabre.

Though much of the detail is lost, you can find several images of it on the web. Try


for one, but a Google search will turn up several sites with it.