Miravan Breaking Open the Tomb of his Ancestors (1772)

Miravan Breaking Open the Tomb of his Ancestors is an oil painting by Joseph Wright of Derby from 1772. Based upon a Persian fairy tale, or one that was discreetly invented in eighteenth-century Europe, the scene depicts a young nobleman, Miravan, who, while walking amongst the tombs of his ancestors, discovers an inscribed tablet that reads: 'In this tomb is a greater treasure than ever Croesus possessed.' Miravan orders servants to break open the tomb only to discover nothing but bones and dust. A further inscription reads:

'Here would have dwelt eternal repose -a treasure that Croesus never possessed which thou hast driven hence being excited by an insatiable love of gold, to disturb the sacred remains of thy progenitor.'

By desecrating an ancestor for material wealth, Miravan forfeits his own repose, and is still no richer for it.

Wright illuminates the scene by means of a lamp hanging in the foreground. Although its light is bright, the lamp itself is dark, while the tomb is bright without but dark within, promising riches, but bringing forth nothing but a curse. And so with all treasure hunts; seek first the Kingdom of God, and all things shall be added unto you. 

They spend their days in wealth, and in a moment go down to the grave. Therefore they say unto God, Depart from us; for we desire not the knowledge of thy ways. Job 21:13-14