A pen and wash drawing of a scabbard was Hans Holbein the younger's first depiction of the Dance of Death and is believed to date from 1521. A left click on either of the two sections will take you to large images of this copy of his work by Swiss engraver Christian von Mechel. Most of Mechel's engravings were based on Holbein's works as seen by Peter Paul Rubens but in this case he owned the original drawing.
In many traditions people donned disguises to fool Death so that should he be stalking the neighbourhood he was unable to identify them and passed them by. The finality of all manner and stations joining in the final dance to the grave was an ever present image in most communities.
|The last letter of Hans Holbein the younger's |
Dance of Death Alphabet - after the message
of Death the Leveler comes the equally
leveling redemption of the Resurrection.
Back in 2012 I created a video using a 20th century setting of an old English (16th century or earlier) dirge meant to be sung at wakes to accompany the dead on their dance with Death to the gates of Purgatory. The strange juxtaposition of Buffy Stainte Marie singing Benjamin Britten's setting of the Lyke-Wake Dirge fascinated me when I first bought the album back in 1967 and 47 years later still has the power to give me chills.Wer war der Tor, wer des Weise[r],
Wer der Bettler oder Kaiser?
Ob arm, ob reich, im Tode gleich.
Who was the fool, who the wise
who the beggar or the Emperor?
Whether rich or poor, all are equal in death
Text from a Totentanz
'Tis now the very witching time of night,
When churchyards yawn and hell itself breathes out
Contagion to this world.
Hamlet: Act 3William Shakespeare
October 31 -1863: The Maori Wars resume as British forces in New Zealand led by General Duncan Cameron begin their Invasion of the Waikato.