Dance of the Dead: in the Face of the Medieval Artist Smile

 INDUSTRY NEWS     |      2019-12-09 10:08
Most visitors to Luzern, Switzerland, visit the flowery cathedral Bridges, medieval city walls, the mournful, brooding statues of dying lions, the quiet, charming Banks of the lake Vierwaldstattersee, or the nearby steep Pilatus. Not many people know, however, that a ten-minute walk north along the Banks of the Royce river leads to another medieval "Spreuerbrucke". This pristine bridge contains one of the most overlooked treasures of early baroque art, painted by artist Kaspar Meglinge in 67 Danse Macabre paintings.
No matter where you come from or whether you have religious beliefs, you will be able to identify the hidden secrets of the painting in the first place. You can see popes, Kings, knights, scholars, monks, gamblers, still children, face to face with death at different times, on different occasions and at different times. You could see a woman walking in the garden, death watching at the corner, or a cardinal eating soup, death passing by with a dish of food.
The dance of death, a combination of the secular and the sacred, joy and sadness, faith and despair, is the most common series of works in medieval Europe. It comes from the turbulent 13th century: the Crusades, the hundred years' war, famine, and, of course, the devastating black death. The artist transforms the uncertainty and impermanence of life into a dance scene with death. Hidden behind the graceful and light steps, it is a moral admonition that "all men must die", and meanwhile, it strongly suggests that we should be prepared for death.
According to art history, Kaspar Meglinge, who painted inside the wheat bran bridge, was most likely influenced by another Renaissance master, the Germanic artist Hans Holbein (1497-1543).

Left to right: Hans holborn jr. (1497-1543) a knight stabbed in the belly with a long spear, a abbot dragged by death in his robes, the old man looks death in the eye with a determined look. (credit: THE PUBLIC DOMAIN REVIEW)
The young holban's version of the dance of death is a great and severe victory of the Renaissance printmaking art. In a series of dynamic scenes, he introduces death into the daily life of people of different social classes. The same goes for popes, nobles, doctors, and peasants. Like Dante, the author of the divine comedy, young holborn gives everyone a special death situation: the knight who is stabbed through the abdomen with a long gun; The abbot dragged by death in his robes; The old man looked at death with determined eyes; A nobleman struggling to resist; Or vendors who are too busy doing business to admit that their time has come.

Left to right: Hans holborn jr. (1497-1543), a resistance nobleman, too busy doing business to acknowledge his end. (credit: THE PUBLIC DOMAIN REVIEW)

Death comes as an equal, and no one is spared.

Left to right: Hans holborn jr. (1497-1543) the duchess being dragged from her bed by death, the coxswain, the judge accepting a bribe not knowing death had crept up behind him. (credit: THE PUBLIC DOMAIN REVIEW)
If we look closely, we can see that artists depict the powerlessness and vulnerability of the power class in the face of death with greater force. The disgraced duchess was being dragged from her bed by death, the frightened queen, the fawning archbishop, or the judge who was taking a bribe, and did not know that death had crept up behind her... These thematic compositions of social criticism made the dance of death by young holborn a pioneer of satirical and political cartoons after the 18th century.

Hans holborn jr. (1497-1543), Henry viii
The original and interesting dance of death is a series of woodcut prints made in Basel, Switzerland from 1523 to 1525. Upon completion of this piece, after a few months, a small hall class is leaving for England, in the next ten years, he became the most courted Tudor palace painter, also for contemporary people leave deep shadow: Henry viii, Thomas Moore, Erasmus and unforgettable "ambassador", this time, the artist is obscure and will boldly totentanz implants, almost all of the people have seen this masterpiece, send out knowing smile.

Hans holban, jr. (1497-1543). The ambassador. (credit :WIKIMEDIA COMMONS)

Facing the unknown death, or the unknown of death, can be brave, can be weak, and of course, can be humorous.