Danse Macabre, Dance of Death, Todtentanz
A grim saraband of skeletons, coming to take you away. Momento mori:
remember that you must die. The middle ages preached this lesson
with particular intensity. Graphic artists-- Hans Holbein most influentially--
responded to the urgency, to the undeniable power of this topos
with scenes in which a dancing, skeletal Reaper came for the archbishop
and the servant, the judge and the doctor, the mother and the child.
In the nineteenth century the motif is re-energized by revolution
and social upheaval, and heralds the arrival of a social fantastic
with Alfred Rethels great series, Auch ein Todtentanz. Cornells
extensive collection includes rare works that have never been reproduced
in the literature devoted to the subject. Freunds Heins Erscheinungen
(in Holbeins Manier) and Merkel and Flegels Bilder des
Todes join Thomas Rowlandsonís satirical classic English
Dance of Death, for especially remarkable depictions of suicide.
The collection also contains early, important studies, like Peignots
Recherches sur les danses des morts (1826), which links the theme
to the iconography of playing cards; Achille Jubinals Explication
de la danse des morts de la Chaise-Dieu (1841) a hand-colored example
of early art-historical interest in ecclesiastical danse macabre
frescoes; and E.-H. Langloiss definitive Essai sur la danse
des morts (1852).
View Images: Danse Macabre
- Clark, James M. The Dance of Death in the Middle Ages and
Renaissance. Glasgow: Jackson, 1950.
- Collins, Marcia.The Dance of Death in Book Illustration.
Exhibition Catalogue, Ellis Library, University of Missouri-Columbia,
- Sara Webster Goodwin. Kitsch and Culture: The Dance of
Death in Literature and Art. NY: Garland, 1986.
- The Dance of Death from the XIIth to the XXth Century:
The notable collection of Miss Susan Minns of Boston Mass.
Auction Catalogue, published by the American Art Association,
- E. A. Poe, Tales of Mystery and Imagination.
- Villiers de lIsle-Adam, Contes cruels.
- Theophile Gautier, Contes fantastiques. Joan Kessler,
ed. Demons of the Night.