Dance of Death

Dance of Death is a series of pictures in which Death, portrayed as a skeleton, is 'the principal figure, anti represents all the animation of a living person, sometimes amusingly ludicrous, and at others mischievous, but always busily, employed. It is interesting, as it exhibits the costumes of all ranks and, conditions of life at the period. Hans Holbein painted a dance of death in the royal galleries at Whitehall. There was also a fine example in the cloisters of the chantry chapel of St. Anne, called the Pardon Church House, on the north side of St. Paul's, in London, which dated from the reign of Henry V; and others were painted in the cloisters of the Holy Innocents at Paris, at Basle and Lubeck in the 15th century, at Minden in the 14th century and at Dresden, Leipsic, and Annahberg. In the 14th century it is alluded to in the "Vision of Piers Plowman," and has been said to have been acted as a spiritual masque by clerks. Prior speaks of "imperial death leading up Holbein's dalice." Possibly it was a memorial of a fatal plague as well as a moral lesson.

It was known also under the title of the Dance Macabre, eithier from an imaginary poet of Germany called Mnacabar, who was said to have written the appropriate disticlhs placed under each set of figures, or more probably from the hermit saint of Egypt, Macarius, who is still portrayed (in pictures in Greek monasteries, as he was frequently introduced. The English name was Dance of Pouii's (St. Paul's).

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