Sir Thomas Aston at the Deathbed of his Wife
Europe, United Kingdom, England
203.2 x 215.1 cm
Sir Thomas Aston at the Death Bed of his Wife 1635
John Souch, active 1607 - 1645
Oil on canvas
Sir Thomas Aston, was a wealthy Chester merchant.
When his wife, Magdalene, died in childbirth
he commissioned a local artist to paint a memorial.
The artist painted her on her death bed,
as well as a portrait of her enjoying eternal life.
Magdalene bore him four children.
but only Thomas survived to comfort his father.
He too was to die a few years later.
The frequency of death made it no easier to bear
and those left on earth to grieve were to be pitied.
Sir Thomas drew up a sophisticated programme to help him.
Father and son stand side by side,
putting behind them the pleasures of the world,
suggested by the lute and carpet.
They both grasp a cross-staff, a measuring instrument,
implying that grief cannot be measured
but also symbolising the cross, promising eternal life.
Sir Thomas reels in grief, one hand resting on a skull.
His other hand is steadied by the cross
so he is balanced between death and everlasting life.
Peter Jones gift through the National Art Collections Fund 1927.150