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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.

September 2004