Catholic piety emphasized the importance of charity or loveŚlove of God and love of neighbor.  Works of mercy were done for the corporal and/or spiritual benefit of others.  Charity was frequently portrayed in allegorical fashion, especially as a mother nursing children.  Yet, this was not only allegory.  In times of plague, afflicted mothers found that they could not nurse, and they had to rely on the charity of others for nourishment of their infants, if they were to survive.  In various ways, famine often accompanied plague, and the corporal works of mercy of feeding the hungry and giving drink to the thirsty were shown in many paintings.  As mortality rates could be very high, and fear of contagion great, burial of the dead from plague was sometimes long delayed.  Considered an important work of mercy, burial of the dead was not merely a macabre subject but an edifying one for painting in early modern Italy.