This is is The Triumph of Death, painted in 1562 by Pieter Bruegel the Elder. It’s in Madrid’s Prado museum, and it’s my favorite painting in the world, you guys. It’s a memento mori, the genre of painting devoted to reminding you that you’re totally, 100% going to die someday, so you’d better get your afterlife real estate situation sorted out now. Most of these take on a somber, serious tone — as you would expect — but The Triumph of Death takes it on with a kind of manic glee, like when movie characters that survive the end of the world realize they can have as many fur coats and Maseratis as they can grab. It’s a deeply serious philosophical work on the inevitability of death that can also be scored to the GREMLINS soundtrack. According to Bruegel, “being dead” means hanging out with your skeleton pals and tormenting the living — which is a way better afterlife than the current alternates. Just look this:
Skeletons help out other skeletons — unlike treacherous, self-interested mortals.
Skeletons serve whimsical meals consisting of their own heads! Skeletons disrupt boring dinner parties with wax masks! Skeletons play hurdy-gurdys at couples giving PDA! This should be celebrated and encouraged.
Look at this face. Being human and alive is for the birds. Skeletons get to take what they want, murder whoever they want, and wear fab robes. If anyone asks, I’m voting Skeleton Army this year.
John Leavitt is a cartoonist, writer, director, and illustrator, His cartoons and illustrations have appeared in: The New Yorker, The Chronicle Review, The New York Press, The Common Review, The Journal Of Science Fiction and Fantasy, Narrative Magazine and elsewhere. He has worked with Molly Crabapple to produce posters for The Electronic Frontier Foundation and others.