Art and Religion: The Rich Man and Lazarus

The imagery of this parable is rich.

There are more scenes in the story than most parables. We have the earthbound scene featuring the unnamed rich man and the named poor man, Lazarus. But the story moves to the afterlife with Lazarus rewarded in heaven and the rich man suffering eternally in hell. The story is not complete, however, without the depiction of dogs!

We’ll start with a detail from one depiction.


Artists have great latitude in depicting the story.

Here are two paintings from two artists, both born in Antwerp and active as artists in the early seventeenth century. One is by Bartholomeus van Bassen. He was an architect. You can guess which painting is his! The other is by Frans Francken. You see, artists can’t help but include themselves in paintings! The story by van Bassen’s brush is a vehicle for his love of architecture.



One hundred years earlier, Albrecht Altdorfer painted this story in amazing and bizarre detail. Find the monkey. Also note how perspective often is used to indicate importance. The rich man and his wife are so much larger than the servants even though they are in the background. You can spend some time exploring this painting . . . and that’s what the artist had in mind.


This more modern depiction concentrates on the climax of the story.