Four Things Bring Ruin to a Mine (c. 1556)


This tempera painting depicts the four main reasons for the failure of a mine: war, death, rising costs, and sloth. War brings the mining industry to a standstill (upper left) and causes death (upper right). Price hikes and inflation leave miners holding empty bags instead of grain-filled sacks (lower left). Then comes the issue of poor character: the final scene shows lazy miners lying around the entrance to the mine, refusing to work (lower right). This image was printed in the 1556 Schwazer Mining Book [Schwazer Bergbuch], which portrayed the Tyrolian mining industry in texts and images. The Mining Book is an important source for understanding the lives and work of sixteenth-century miners.


Source: Schwazer Mining Book [Schwazer Bergbuch], Deutsches Museum, Munich

Reproduction: Deutsches Museum, Munich

Günther Jontes, “Das Schwazer Bergbuch als Quelle zur Montanvolkskunde – The Schwaz Bergbuch (Schwazer Bergbuch) – A Source of the Culture of Mining and Metallurgy in Early Modern Times,” in Geo.Alp, Sonderband 1 (2007), pp. 63–71.

Wolfgang Lefèvre, Picturing the World of Mining in the Renaissance: The Schwazer Bergbuch (1556). Berlin: Max-Planck-Institut für Wissenschaftsgeschichte, 2010. 

Silber, Erz und Weißes Gold. Bergbau in Tirol. Catalog of the Tyrolean Provincial Exhibition in the Franciscan Monastery and Silver Mine, Schwaz. Innsbruck: Tiroler Landesmuseum Ferdinandeum, 1990.

Four Things Bring Ruin to a Mine (c. 1556), published in: German History Intersections, <> [December 01, 2023].