The Library

Religious Subjects > Dives and Lazarus




Dives and Lazarus

1. 16th-century German boxwood carving.

A parable about those who have riches on earth that have to be paid for after death and the poor who will reap their reward in heaven.  Dives, meaning rich man, wears fine clothes, eats and drinks well and consorts with elegant women.  Lazarus, by contrast, is starving, and sits at the gate hoping in vain for crumbs from the rich man's table; he is covered in sores that are licked by dogs.  In this carving Dives is richly attired and sits or stands behind a balustrade in the company of an elegant woman, wine in an expensive chalice on a table nearby.  A servant with a stick is on his way down to the street below to drive off Lazarus the beggar.  However, through the window behind the pillar we can see a vision of the afterlife in which Dives, who has failed to share his wealth, is roasting in hell.








2.  16th-century German stove tile, Nuremberg c.1560.

The subject of Dives and Lazarus seems to appear more often on ceramic items than in wood.  Here the figure of Lazarus prominently displays the sores that caused him to be associated with lepers.  He is not to be confused with the man who was raised from the dead by Jesus.  The angels above in the spandrels are waiting for Lazarus, not for Dives.










3. 18th-century Dutch manganese tile.

Here Lazarus is holding in his right hand a leper's clapper so that people will hear him approach and can avoid him and all risk of contagion.