1594 - 1665
From the collection of the Duke of Rutland's Trustees, Belvoir Castle, Grantham, Lincolnshire.
A dying man is anointed with oil in accordance with the rite of the ancient Christian church. Mourners are in various attitudes of grief: his mother holds his head; his wife sits at the foot of the bed; behind her, his daughter joins her hands in prayer. This sombre scene is lightened by Poussin's use of colour and by the presence of a maidservant on the far right who is clearly not emotionally involved.
"There is nothing more precious than time; but there is nothing less esteemed and more despised by men of the world. This is what St. Bernard deplores when he says: 'Nothing is more precious than time, but nothing is regarded more cheaply.' The same saint adds: 'The days of salvation pass away, and no one reflects that day which has passed away from him can never return.'
You will see a gambler spends nights and days in play. If you ask him what he is doing, his answer is I am passing the time.' You will see others standing several hours in the street, looking at those who pass by, and speaking on obscene or useless subjects. If you ask them what they are doing, they will say: 'We are passing the time.' Poor blind sinners!-who lose so many days; but days which can never return.
O time despised during life! You will be ardently desired by worldlings at the hour of death. They will then wish for another year, another month, another day; but they will not obtain it; they will then be told that time shall be no longer theirs. How much would they then pay for another week, or another day to settle the accounts of their conscience? To obtain a single hour, they would, says St Laurence Justinian, give all their wealth and worldly possessions. But this hour shall not be given.
From Preparation for Death by St. Alphonsus de Liquori