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David Teniers the Younger, The Rich Man being led to Hell

Key facts
Full title The Rich Man being led to Hell
Artist David Teniers the Younger
Artist dates 1610 - 1690
Date made about 1647
Medium and support Oil on oak
Dimensions 48 × 69 cm
Inscription summary Signed
Acquisition credit Bought, 1871
Inventory number NG863
Location Not on display
Collection Main Collection
Previous owners
The Rich Man being led to Hell
David Teniers the Younger

The fires of hell light up Teniers’s cave-like underworld with an eerie glow. An old man stands, hands raised in self-defence, his eyes wide with fear at the sight of the horrors around him. Weird creatures gather in glee to welcome another soul into the dreadful place that his greed and avarice have led him to.

The story – a parable that Christ told his disciples about the evil of gathering wealth without doing charitable deeds – comes from the Gospel of Luke. This picture shows the fate of the rich man who rejected the beggar Lazarus in his last hours: while Lazarus was carried to heaven, the rich man went to hell as a punishment. Flanders was a Catholic country and the idea of hell was very real, but sinners could receive forgiveness for their trespasses. This is a picture meant as a moral message, but perhaps with a light tone.

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