George Frederic Watts and assistants

The Court of Death

c.1870–1902

Artist
George Frederic Watts 1817–1904 and assistants
Medium
Oil paint on canvas
Dimensions
Support: 4285 x 2740 x 45 mm
frame: 4525 x 2985 x 70 mm
Collection
Tate
Acquisition
Presented by George Frederic Watts 1902
Reference
N01894

Not on display

Display caption

This painting was intended for the chapel of a paupers’ cemetery. Death is shown as an enthroned angel, holding a baby which shows, according to Watts, that ‘even the germ of life is in the lap of Death’. Flanking Death are allegorical figures of Silence and Mystery, guarding what lies beyond the veil: sunrise and the star of hope.

In the foreground a warrior surrenders his sword and a duke his coronet, showing that worldly status offers no protection. But Death also offers refuge: a man with crutches finds relief from pain, while a pale, sick woman rests her head.

Gallery label, September 2004

Video

George Frederic Watts - The Court of Death 1870-1902

Tate curator of 19th century British art, Alison Smith, talks about five George Frederic Watts works in the Tate Collection.