Dancing with death

via users.telenet.be Dansen met de Dood

Dansen met de Dood

A friend lent me her copy of the book above, an excellent compendium of visuals of the perennial favourite dance of death theme. Dansen met de Dood is a Dutch language book on the iconography of dance of death by Johan De Soete, Harry Van Royen and Dirk Vanclooster. Dance of Death, also variously called Danse Macabre (French), Danza Macabra (Italian) or Totentanz (German), is a late-medieval allegory on the universality of death: no matter one’s station in life, the dance of death unites all. La Danse Macabre consists of the personified death leading a row of dancing figures from all walks of life to the grave—typically with an emperor, king, pope, monk, youngster, beautiful girl, all skeletal. They were produced to remind people of how fragile their lives were and how vain the glories of earthly life were. Its origins are postulated from illustrated sermon texts; the earliest artistic examples are in a cemetery (Cimetière des Innocents) in Paris from 1424.

The book was based on a 2008 exhibition in the Flemish city of Koksijde. It featured manuscripts of the Great Seminary in Bruges and the Catharijne convent in Utrecht, objects and graphic work by Wim Delvoye, Pierre Alechinsky, Paul Delvaux, Frans Masereel, James Ensor, Käthe Kollwitz, Félicien Rops and Hans Holbein.

The images below were new to me.

via www.scherenschnitt.org Walter Draesner Ein Totentanz, nach Scherenschnitten von Walter Draesner mit Geleitwort von Max von Boehn. Berlin: B. Behrs. Max von Boehn - 1922

Walter Draesner Ein Totentanz, nach Scherenschnitten von Walter Draesner mit Geleitwort von Max von Boehn(1922). With a preface by Max von Boehn

4 thoughts on “Dancing with death

  1. Amanda

    This looks amazing. Unfortunately, the only place I can find it for sale online wants to charge $25 for shipping to the US!

    When I searched for the title on abebooks, it came up with this other volume: Memento Mori. Dansen met de Dood. De dodendans in boek en prent. (ISBN: 9075481063)

    Have you had a chance to view this book as well?

  2. jahsonic

    Yes, I have it right here, I read it yesterday, the first part is on skeletons and death and their relation to modern and contemporary art. The second part is an overview of the dance of death since the Middle Ages, the last part … I forget.

    But the whole book is in Dutch, this maybe a drawback.

    1. Amanda

      I admit I have a few art books in Dutch, but no, I don’t know the language well. Next time I’m in Amsterdam or Antwerp I’ll definitely go looking for these though!

  3. StarCraft 2 News

    The Dance with Death is a brilliant allegory of life. If we look at modern progress, a massive amount of energy is placed on extending the average human beings life through medicine, nutrition etc.

    Yet, anyone one of us could be hit by a car tomorrow. Freak accidents remind us everyday that death can come at any time and often for inexplicable reasons.

    Such a fascinating way to consider the end of life – a dance with death.

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