In Bruegel and the Creative Process, 1559 – 1563, Margaret Sullivan explains how the religious and political disorder of the Reformation in the Netherlands influenced Pieter Bruegel’s most original works, including The Triumph of Death. During this period, Bruegel combined classical elements and vernacular traditions. As a result of this process, he was able to depict similar imagery to his contemporaries, yet convey a vastly different concept. In a review, Todd Richardson argued that her claim relied heavily on classical literary sources with inadequate visual evidence in the work itself, and her correlations to antiquity rely solely on the motif of death. In his study, Pieter Bruegel the Elder, Richardson built an analogous argument about Bruegel’s integration, but through the “analysis of the visual grammar”. This study uses both methods to argue that in his deliberate manipulations of the memento mori tradition, Bruegel adapted classical satire and stoic philosophy into a palatable form for the 16th century. In his Triumph of Death, vernacular images of death are visually dominant. Yet, it is the classical tradition of satire that allowed Bruegel to act as a neutral observer and critic of the contemporary violence. Bruegel presented a stoic’s view of the apocalypse in which death, satire’s ultimate weapon, overcomes mankind.
Gisselberg, Susan K.
"Satire and Stoicism: Pieter Bruegel the Elder's Triumph of Death,"
Vol. 11, Article 91.
Available at: http://uknowledge.uky.edu/kaleidoscope/vol11/iss1/91