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Études autour de la mort et de ses représentations
Sous le titre Mort n’espargne ne petit ne grant, évocateur de la Danse
macabre, le présent volume réunit les communications du xviiie congrès
ne petit ne grant
international organisé par l’association Danses macabres d’Europe
(Paris, 19-23 mars 2019). Les textes reprennent l’histoire de la mort et Études autour de la mort
de ses représentations en un large spectre, depuis les siècles médiévaux
jusqu’à l’époque contemporaine. Des pistes nouvelles sur l’apparition de et de ses représentations
la Danse macabre avant 1424 sont proposées, les liens entre les textes
et les images qui disent l’angoisse des hommes devant la mort sont
explorés, la présence obsédante de la Danse macabre depuis les débuts
de l’imprimerie parisienne (Guy Marchant, Thielman Kerver, Gillet

Actes du xviiie congrès international de
Hardouyn) jusqu’aux déclinaisons du baroque vénitien (Fabio Glissenti) l’association Danses macabres d’Europe
est soulignée. Représentée dans l’art monumental des xve et xvie siècles
(à Albi, à Pinzolo), comme dans les gravures hollandaises des vanités un Paris, 19-23 mars 2019
siècle plus tard, évoquée dans l’art funéraire et les lieux de mémoire, la
Danse macabre traverse les époques, renaissant de façon dramatique à
l’occasion des guerres du siècle dernier (Edmond Bille, Franz Masereel
et Jean Virolle) jusqu’à trouver un écho dans le street art du xxie siècle.
Trois axes de recherches étaient proposés : la Danse macabre au sein de
la société et des villes, la mort et ses lieux de mémoire, l’art macabre et la
conception des fins dernières. Des chercheurs de plusieurs pays d’Europe,
France, Italie, Angleterre, Espagne et Roumanie, ont contribué à cette
réflexion, couvrant par des études inédites une large panoplie de sujets
littéraires et iconographiques et mettant en lumière de nouveaux aspects
historiques et artistiques de l’histoire de la mort et de ses représentations.
Ce domaine, dont la Danse macabre est un emblème, reste un terrain
de recherche inépuisable pour l’historien, l’historien de l’art et pour tout
amateur d’art, d’histoire et de littérature.

Éditions du Cherche-Lune

40 €
Éditions du Cherche-Lune
Textes réunis par Ilona Hans-Collas, Didier Jugan,
Danielle Quéruel, Hélène et Bertrand Utzinger
Mort n’espargne
ne petit ne grant
Études autour de la mort
et de ses représentations

Actes du xviiie congrès international de
l’association Danses macabres d’Europe
Paris, 19-23 mars 2019

Textes réunis par Ilona Hans-Collas, Didier Jugan,


Danielle Quéruel, Hélène et Bertrand Utzinger
Éditions du Cherche-Lune
Sommaire
À la mémoire de Solange Fouilleul

Remerciements p. 6
Introduction p. 7

Littérature médiévale
Gérard Gros, Au-delà de la mort ici-bas : les funérailles
des chevaliers chrétiens dans la Chanson de Rolandp. 10
Danielle Quéruel, Le voyage de l’homme vers la mort :
Le Pas de la mort d’Amé de Montgesoie p. 26
Isabelle Delaunay,
Le Pas de la mort, un manuscrit enluminé à Paris vers 1500 p. 37
Helen Swift, L’architecture funèbre dans la littérature
du xve siècle : la décomposition mémoriale p. 44

Pratiques funéraires médiévales


et culte des morts
Sabine Berger, Guillaume d’Harcourt et la fondation de la
collégiale funéraire Saint-Louis de La Saussaye (xive siècle) :
un lieu de mémoire à caractère ostentatoire sous les derniers
Capétiens p. 58
Marina Aguilar Salinas, L’épigraphie funéraire féminine à
l’Âge Moderne : la Cathédrale Magistrale de Alcalá de Henares p. 78
Marco Piccat, « Après laquelle odeur et flaireur, tous les petis
enfans... courroient par les rues… » : la vie et les miracles de
Pierre de Luxembourg (1369-1387) p. 94
Danses macabres imprimées et gravées Tommaso Zerbi, Danse Macabre Architecturale :
Funerary Architecture, Performance, and the Gothic
Hélène Colleu, Chorea ab Eximio Macabro : at the Court of Savoy p. 356
appropriation, traduction et diffusion d’un thème macabre p. 114
Thierry Claerr, L’image de la mort dans l’illustration Réflexions littéraires sur la mort
des livres d’heures sortis des presses de Thielman Kerver,
imprimeur libraire à Paris de 1497 à 1522 : reprise ou Antonia ViÑez Sanchez, “Nel fèr pensier, là dov’io trovo Morte”.
renouvellement iconographique ?  p. 132 Cino da Pistoia: experiencia poética y símbolo p. 372

Denis Hüe, Les Figures de la vie de l’homme de Gillet Hardouyn p. 150 Georges Fréchet, La Mort en gondole : le thème de la
Danse macabre à travers la ville dans l’œuvre de Fabio Glissenti p. 386
Sophie Oosterwijk, Morbid morality.
The Danse macabre motif in Dutch art of the Golden Age p. 174 Jessica Goodman, L’au-delà comme lieu de mémoire ?
Projection, jugement et gloire dans Les Nouveaux dialogues
des morts de Fontenellep. 406
Danses macabres monumentales
Jean-Louis Haquette, Variations iconographiques autour de
Didier Jugan, Déconstruction d’une Danse macabre. l’Élégie écrite dans un cimetière de campagne de Thomas Gray p. 418
Vers un modèle original, antérieur à 1424 p. 196
Lannie Rollins, La grande guerre
La Danse macabre de la collégiale Saint-Salvi à Albi (France)p. 224
Franck Knoery, Une Danse macabre de guerre :
Cristina Noacco, Una danza tira l’altra. satire, morale et réalisme dans les arts graphiques autour
I linguaggi della morte nella danza macabra di Pinzolo p. 242 du premier conflit mondial p. 438
Cécile Coutin, La Danse macabre de Jean Virolle p. 454
Iconographie autour de la mort
Romain Doucet, Saint Michel et la mort La mort à l’époque contemporaine
(France, fin du Moyen Âge-Renaissance) p. 268
André Chabot, Mort obligée mais libre pensée…,
Cristina Bogdan, Devant le cadavre et la sépulture : du cimetière religieux au cimetière laïc p. 464
saint Sisoès se lamentant sur la tombe d’Alexandre le Grand p. 286
Marie-Dominique Leclerc, Trois p’tits tours et puis s’en vont.
Francesc Massip, Mors, Iudicium, Infernus, Gaudia Caeli : Spectacles contemporains avec marionnettes macabres p. 478
les quatre Fins dernières et leurs représentations p. 302
Nathalie Pineau-Farge, La Danse macabre dans la ville
(France et Europe), fin du xxe-xxie siècles : affichage,
La mort et l’histoire des mentalités installations, street art. Tradition et éléments novateurs p. 496
Yann Celton, Images de la mort dans les tableaux
de missions bretons, xviie-xxe siècles p. 322 Pour prolonger…
Jean-Luc Laffont, L’« exil des morts » à Toulouse (1775-1780) p. 340 Michel Pastoureau, Les couleurs de la mort au Moyen Âge p. 514
Sophie Oosterwijk

Morbid morality. The Danse macabre


motif in Dutch art of the Golden Age 1

Sophie Oosterwijk
University of St Andrews (GB)
Danses macabres d’Europe

Résumé
Le thème de la vanité, avec des crânes, des sabliers et autres rappels de
la mortalité humaine, est omniprésent dans les portraits du xvie siècle et
du début du xviie siècle dans les natures mortes, surtout dans les Pays-Bas.
Ces vanités comprennent aussi souvent des os, des roses fanées, une bougie
presque éteinte, des livres en lambeaux, des instruments de musique, des
verres vides, des pièces de monnaie ou des perles, et parfois un globe ou
un crucifix, tous mettant l’accent sur la fugacité de la vie, de la beauté,
de la richesse, de l’érudition et du plaisir terrestre. Ces sombres rappels
convenaient bien aux tendances moralisatrices des mécènes du siècle d’or
néerlandais, en particulier à leur contraste aigu avec la richesse affichée
dans leurs maisons. La mortalité est représentée par le crâne, mais la Mort
elle-même n’apparaît pas dans les Vanitas comme dans la Danse macabre
- et dans les scènes de genre hollandaises de l’époque.
Fig. 1 - Aelbert Jansz. van der Schoor, Vanitas Still Life with Skulls, c.1640-62.
Oil on canvas, 635 x 730 mm. Amsterdam, Rijksmuseum. Peu d’attention a été accordée aux réinterprétations de la Danse
macabre par les artistes hollandais du siècle d’or. Néanmoins, ce motif
médiéval populaire a inspiré des grands artistes hollandais tels que
Rembrandt, Jan Lievens, Jan Steen, Abraham Bloemaert, Judith Leyster
et Adriaen van de Venne. Dans les peintures, mais plus souvent dans les
dessins et les estampes, ils montrent la Mort arrivant soudainement pour
attraper surtout les riches avares, les amoureux et les fêtards : des pécheurs

1. The basis for this paper is the unpublished art history dissertation ‘Macabre Morality.
Death in Seventeenth-Century Dutch Genre Prints and Paintings’, University of St Andrews,
2015, that Alice Zamboni (now a PhD student at The Courtauld Institute, London) wrote
under my supervision. Although she has declined to co-author this paper, she has permitted
me to use some of her material and I wish to express my indebtedness to her.

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Sophie Oosterwijk Morbid morality
archétypaux inconscients de leur propre mort ou de l’au-delà. Avec des Iconology
symboles ajoutés tels que des sabliers, des fleurs et des pièces de monnaie,
ces scènes ont donc beaucoup de points communs avec les vanités. Dutch genre scenes have always been admired for their apparent
realism and insights into daily life. We see women at work or at ease in
*** domestic interiors and courtyards, shopping in the market or visiting
doctors: all seemingly straightforward subjects. Yet there was also a taste
The vanitas theme with skulls, hourglasses and other reminders of
for less respectable themes: seductions, tavern and even brothel scenes
man’s mortality is ubiquitous in portraits from the 16th century on, and
with drunkenness or lewd behaviour – quite the opposite of the ‘clean’
also in still-life painting from the early 17th century, especially in the
image of the Dutch Republic.
Low Countries. In Vanitas Still Life with Skulls of around 1640-62 by the
Utrecht painter Aelbert Jansz van der Schoor we see six skulls, bones, an Scenes of merrymaking with clear erotic overtones, but also hints
hourglass, wilting roses and a nearly extinguished candle beneath a shelf about the folly of such behaviour, are often found in northern graphic
with books and sealed documents – symbols of learning and authority art from the 15th century on, and increasingly also in painting4. One
(fig. 1)2. Musical instruments, empty glasses, coins or pearls, and perhaps example is a panel of around 1560-70 entitled Man and Woman at a
a globe or crucifix are also often included and embody the transience of Spinning Wheel by the Dutch renaissance painter Pieter Pietersz the Elder
life, learning, beauty, wealth and earthly pleasure. In shrill contrast to (1540/41-1603)5, which shows a man holding a tankard and leaning
the wealth displayed in Dutch homes, these sombre reminders suited the toward a demurely dressed young woman. His intentions are obvious
moralising tendencies of patrons in the Golden Age. Yet while mortality and the woman’s face, turned towards the viewer, highlights her moral
is represented by the skull, Death himself does not appear in vanitas dilemma. A century later, Dutch observers may well have found scenes
paintings as he does in the Danse macabre – and in Dutch genre scenes of couples drinking or playing music by artists such as Gerard ter Borch
of the period. and Johannes Vermeer equally suggestive. Paintings of elegant parties by
David Vinckboons or Willem Buytewech should not be taken at face
Much has been written about Peter Paul Rubens’s copies of Hans
value either: some may illustrate the parable of the Prodigal Son, and
Holbein’s Images of Death, but scant attention has been paid to Dutch
others a moral warning about excess and vice6.
re-interpretations of the Danse macabre in the Golden Age. Nonetheless,
this popular motif inspired major artists such as Rembrandt, Jan Lievens, As iconological studies by the Dutch art historian Eddy de Jongh and
Jan Steen, Abraham Bloemaert, Judith Leyster and Adriaen van de his followers have shown7, Dutch genre scenes often contain moralising
Venne. In paintings, but especially in drawings and prints3, they show messages for viewers through symbols, emblems, proverbs and allegory.
Death arriving unexpectedly to summon the rich miser, the lovers and Jan Steen (c.1625-1679) was famous for his satirical paintings of disorderly
the merrymakers: archetypal sinners oblivious of their own death or the
hereafter. With hourglasses, flowers and coins as added symbols, these 4. Grössinger Christa, Humour and Folly in Secular and Profane Prints of Northern
scenes have much in common with the vanitas genre. Europe, 1430-1540, London/Turnhout, Harvey Miller Publishers, esp. chapters 3 and
5; Coelen Peter van der, Lammertse Friso (eds), De Ontdekking van het Dagelijks Leven
van Bosch tot Bruegel, Rotterdam, Museum Boijmans van Beuningen, 2015.
5. Rijksmuseum, Amsterdam, SK-A-3962.
2. Klemm Christian, ‘Mors ultima linea rerum. Prehistory and Foundations of the Skull 6. Kolfin Elmer, The Young Gentry at Play. Northern Netherlandish Scenes of Merry
Vanitas’, in Biesboer Pieter et al., Pieter Claesz. Master of Haarlem Still Life, Washington, Companies 1610-1645, Leiden, Primavera Press, 2005.
National Gallery of Art, 2004, p. 68-95. 7. Jongh, Eddy de, Questions of Meaning: Theme and Motif in Dutch Seventeenth-Century
3. Jongh Eddy de, Luijten Ger, Mirror of Everyday Life: Genre Prints in the Netherlands Painting, Leiden, Primavera Press, 2000; Franits Wayne (ed.), Looking at Seventeenth-
1550-1700, Amsterdam, Rijksmuseum, 1997, p. 78. Century Dutch Art. Realism Reconsidered, Cambridge, Cambridge University Press, 1997.

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Sophie Oosterwijk Morbid morality
profligate households, many incorporating proverbs and a multitude of
symbols to indicate the moral message. His large oeuvre includes two Danse
macabre variations: Miser Surprised by Death (1654-56, Copenhagen)
and Scholar in his Studio Surprised by Death (1652-56, Prague). Both are
familiar figures in the Danse macabre tradition, especially the miser –
also identified as a rich man or moneylender8 – but they are at the same
time akin to the theme of transience in Dutch vanitas paintings.
The fact that Steen interpreted the Danse macabre at least twice
suggests a demand for the theme, and some artists achieved even greater
dissemination through the medium of print. Around 1638 Jan Lievens
(1607-1674) painted two Danse macabre variations: Greedy Couple
Surprised by Death and Fighting Card Players and Death (both in private
collections)9. Lievens then reproduced the latter as an etching, and the
numerous worn impressions testify to its popularity. However, far more
widespread are variations on the motifs of ‘Death and Youth’ and ‘Death
and the Lovers’, which convey the vanitas message about the ephemeral
nature of beauty and youth, but are also very close to ‘traditional’ Dutch
genre scenes of courtship and seduction.

Fig. 2 - Werner van den Valckert, Young Couple and Death, 1612. Etching and
Death and the Lovers pen, 163 x 216 mm. Amsterdam, Rijksprentenkabinet.
The Young Man, the Maiden, and the Lovers have a long history in
the Danse macabre tradition. The single amoureux in the French poem of
Saints Innocents and in the fresco at La Chaise-Dieu became John Lydgate’s Well known in Dutch art is the 1592 engraving Death Surprising a
amerous Squyere with the added character of the Gentilwoman amerous in Young Man by Jan Saenredam (?) after Hendrick Goltzius (1558-1617)11.
the revised B-version of his Dance of Death10. A ‘Danse macabre’ border in It contrasts an elegant young man with the spectre of Death seated on a
a Parisian book of hours of around 1430 (Paris, BnF, ms Rothschild 2535, tomb carrying the Latin motto ‘Fvi, non svm: es, non eris’ (I have been
f. 108v) shows instead a couple, which would develop into a separate [but] am no longer; you are [still, but] will not be): a variation of the
motif, as in Albrecht Dürer’s engraving The Promenade of around 1498. text often found in murals of the Three Living and the Three Dead. His
youth and elegance, and the flower in his raised left hand, underline the
8. https://rkd.nl/en/explore/artists/64259. Cf. Oosterwijk Sophie, ‘Money, Morality, vanitas message.
Mortality. The Migration of the Danse Macabre from Murals to Misericords’, in
P. Horden (ed.), Freedom of Movement in the Middle Ages, Harlaxton Medieval Studies, The motif of Youth and Lovers combined, with clear Danse macabre
15, Donington, Shaun Tyas, 2007, p. 37-56. overtones, was used by the Dutch engraver Crispijn (van) de Passe I
9. Wheelock Jr. Arthur K., Jan Lievens. A Dutch Master Rediscovered, New Haven/ (c.1564-1637) in two prints of around 1600 labelled Mors loquitur
London, Yale University Press, 2008, cat. 35-36, 78.
10. Oosterwijk Sophie, ‘Vive l’amour ? Lovers and Death in the Medieval Danse macabre’,
in S. Knöll (ed.), Frauen – Sünde – Tod, Düsseldorf, University Press, 2010, p. 9-26. 11. Kolfin, op.cit., p. 49. Philadelphia Museum of Art, no. 1928-42-3164.

178 | Actes du xviiie congrès international de l’association Danses macabres d’Europe Paris, 19-23 mars 2019 | 179
Sophie Oosterwijk Morbid morality
(Death speaks) and Alloquitur mortem (She addresses Death)12. In the
first print Death confronts a young man who vainly draws his sword,
while the second shows an elegant young woman in a garden, the flower
in her left hand echoing the hourglass held aloft by Death. The Latin
verses form a dialogue with Death addressing the young man, while the
lady speaks to Death. These pendant prints thus pair each character with
Death like a Danse macabre.
However, it was more usual to pair the Lovers with Death in a single
composition. In Rembrandt’s 1639 etching Young Couple and Death,
Death with a scythe rises from a grave before an elegant young couple13,
just as Death’s hourglass mirrors the flower in the woman’s right hand
in Alloquitur mortem. Yet Rembrandt (1606-1669) was by no means the
first Dutch artist to adopt this format. An earlier example with strong
vanitas overtones is the 1612 etching Young Couple and Death by Werner
van den Valckert (1580-1627/47) (fig. 2). Like his counterpart in Mors
loquitur, the man draws his sword but cannot stop the winged figure of
Death aiming his dart at the lady. While dying she reaches out for her
necklace and the moneybox on the left, its lid decorated with an image
of a woman surrounded by small children: perhaps her dowry? That the
couple’s youth, beauty and wealth offer no protection against Death is
voiced by the handwritten verses in Latin and Dutch underneath: ‘Queis
[sic] Fortuna favet vitae melioris in aevo/ Illos heu nimium mors inopina
rapit!’ (Fate favours some with a better life in old age, [but] alas a cruelly
unexpected death snatches away others!) and ‘O doot wat droeff gedacht
brenght ghy in haer op heden/ Die het geluck toelacht, ionck ende frisch
sijn van leden’ (Oh Death, what sad thought you now bring to them
whom fortune smiles on [and who] are young and fresh of limbs)14. The
small mirror on the wall underlines the vanitas message.

12. British Museum, London, no. 1937,0915.155.


Fig. 3 - Anonymous after Hendrick Goltzius, Couple Making Music and Death, 13. Oosterwijk ‘Vive l’amour ?, art. cit., p. 10 and fig. 1. Harvard Art Museums, no. G3248.
1590-1610. Engraving, 160 x 123 mm. Amsterdam, Rijksprentenkabinet. 14. A second state of this etching has an engraved inscription in Dutch. The pendant
to this print shows an elderly couple with Death playing the bagpipes. See Luijten Ger
(comp.), Hoop Scheffer D. de (ed.), Hollstein’s Dutch & Flemish Etchings, Engravings and
Woodcuts ca. 1450-1700, volume XXXII, Petrus Valck to Esaias van de Velde, Roosendaal,
Koninklijke Van Pol, 1998, p. 22-23.

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Sophie Oosterwijk Morbid morality
we are much closer to death than we know). The bilingual motto and the
print’s high quality indicate a sophisticated audience.
In the etching Death Surprising a Young Couple by Jan van de Velde
II (1593-1641), another elegant pair are as yet oblivious of Death
approaching them from behind while raising a winged hourglass16.
Strong vanitas elements are the couple’s youth and elegant attire, the rich
setting, the raised glass in the woman’s right hand that mirrors Death’s
hourglass, and the oyster shells and flowers strewn across the floor – the
former a familiar erotic symbol and the latter symbolic of love as well
as transience. The man’s indolent sagging pose matches that of the rich
young roisterers in merry company paintings by Willem Buytenwech
(c.1592-1624) and his contemporaries.
It is not always elegant upper-class young couples that Death confronts
in these Dutch 17th-century re-interpretations of the Danse macabre.
The etching A Pair Surprised by Death after David Vinckboons I (1576-
c.1632) shows a man dividing his attentions between his drink and his
female companion (fig. 4). The setting is a forest and the couple looks
more rustic, but their behaviour is once again earthly and frivolous just
when Death aims an arrow at them. As so often, only the dog seems
Fig. 4 - Anonymous artist after David Vinckboons I, A Pair Surprised by Death, aware of Death’s presence, the animal being thus wiser than its human
1600-50. Etching, 103 x 135 mm. Amsterdam, Rijksprentenkabinet. masters. The two accompanying mottos in Latin and in Dutch read:
‘Carpimus inter nos dum vitae gaudia, Saepè/ Nos de improviso mors
Less violent, but just as sardonic is the anonymous engraving Couple
violenta fecit’ (Whether we sometimes pluck the pleasures of life among
Making Music and Death, again after a design by Goltzius (fig. 3)15.
us, often Death unexpectedly does us violence) and ‘Wij zijn in weelde
Engrossed in music and each other, an elegant couple are unaware of
dickwijls gheseten;/ De Doodt veel naerder dan wij weeten’ (Often
Death joining their duet with a fiddle. The lady touches her lover’s chin
immersed in luxury, we are much closer to Death than we know).
in a tender gesture that foreshadows Death’s imminent grasp: his intent
look towards her suggests that she will be the victim. The hourglass
on the window-sill mirrors the wineglass on the table beside a plate of
fruit, symbols of transience versus earthly pleasure, as the Latin motto by
Eros and Thanatos
Cornelis Schonaeus (1541-1611) and the matching Dutch verses explain: In the above examples Death preys upon lovers, but what if love itself
‘Est huius vite fallax et vana voluptas/ Mors inopina brevi, et quam quovis is deadly? Eros and Thanatos have long been associated in the Danse
tempore tollit’ (Joy in this life is deceptive and in vain; unexpected death macabre tradition, varying from the ‘Death and the Maiden’ motif in
destroys quickly and at any moment) and ‘Wy syn in vruecht dickmael which Death assaults nubile young women in a lascivious manner17,
gheseten/ de doot veel naerder dan wy weten’ (Often immersed in joy,
16. Amsterdam, Rijksmuseum, no. RP-P-OB-15.311.
15. Kolfin, op.cit., p. 50 and fig. 51. 17. Knöll Stefanie, ‘Zur Entstehung des Motivs Der Tod und das Mädchen’ , in A. von

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Sophie Oosterwijk Morbid morality
or the vanitas depiction of couples juxtaposed with their post-mortem Bol’s temptress appears to be human and alive, albeit with echoes of
counterparts18, to interpretations by later artists such as Felicien Rops Hieronymus Bosch’s demonic temptresses. However, the Utrecht artist
(1833-1898) when the spectre of venereal disease turned women Abraham Bloemaert (1566-1651) presented the deadly nature of female
themselves quite literally into femmes fatales19. A few Dutch artists of the temptation – and at the same time the vanity of earthly beauty – quite
Golden Age also focused on the deadly side of love itself. explicitly in a drawing that is more allegory than genre scene21. At first
sight, Death and the Lovers of c.1620-30 seems to depict the archetypal
In an etching of c.1642-44 by the Dutch artist Ferdinand Bol (1616-
couple of elegant young lovers, but with music abandoned in favour of
1680) entitled The Hour of Death, we see an elderly man – probably
more lascivious pursuits: the lute has been put away and the man faces
a nobleman or courtier who has turned his back on the palace in the
a lady whose breasts are daringly exposed. With his sword suggestively
distance, and thus on a life of luxury20 – being accosted by an alluring
placed upright between his legs, he inserts his hand under her raised skirt
woman in a low-cut dress and a plumed hat, presumably a courtesan. Yet
– only to reveal a pair of skeletal legs.
his retreat into a simple tent with just his books for company helps us
identify him as a philosopher, who is prepared for death and able to resist The lady in Bloemaert’s drawing is thus showing the true extent of her
temptation. Instead he directs the woman’s gaze towards the figure of transient beauty, emphasised by the mirror in her left hand and the hourglass
Death in the lower left corner, who is watching the sand in his hourglass; below. As Death aims his dart at the young man, two shrouded cadavers on
the nearby spade and rake refer to man’s ultimate destination. The Latin the left seem to show grief at such a bad death. Smoke and flames rise up
verses explain the meaning of the engraving and the man’s gesture: ‘Qui from an unseen entrance to hell and a devil hovers above the man as if
speculum hoc cernis/ Cur non mortalia spernis,/ Tali namque domo/ parodying Cupid, intent on stealing his soul. Like the nun in Holbein’s
Conditur omnis homo’ (You who see this mirror, why don’t you disdain Images of Death, the would-be lover will die in a state of mortal sin.
everything mortal? After all, every man is buried in such a house). Of
In Bloemaert’s allegorical scene the woman’s dual state owes much to
course, the mirror is a recurring motif, as in the words of the author in the
the vanitas motif of the combined head and skull that we find on carved
French Danse macabre: ‘En ce miroer chascun peut lire/ Qui le conuient
ivory or boxwood rosary beads and other medieval and early modern
ainsi danser’ (In this mirror everyone can read that he must dance thus).
meditative objects22. At the same time, however, it has its roots in the
archetypal seduction scenes of the Dutch genre tradition.
Hülsen-Esch, H. Westermann-Angerhausen, with S. Knöll (eds), ‘Zum Sterben schön!’
Alter, Totentanz und Sterbekunst von 1500 bis heute, Regensburg, Schnell & Steiner, 2006,
vol. 1, p. 65-72; Wilson Jean, ‘The Kiss of Death: Death as a Lover in Early Modern Adriaen van de Venne and the Danse macabre
English Literature and Art’, in S. Oosterwijk, S. Knöll (eds), Mixed Metaphors. The
Danse macabre in Medieval and Early Modern Europe, Newcastle upon Tyne, Cambridge Whereas other Dutch artists chose to depict scenes inspired by the
Scholars Publishing, 2011, p. 237-266. Danse macabre only once or twice, the versatile and prolific artist
18. Cf. Luxford Julian, ‘The Sparham Corpse Panels: Unique Revelations of Death Adriaen Pietersz van de Venne (1589-1662) was unusual in revisiting the
from Late Fifteenth-Century England’, The Antiquaries Journal, 90, 2010, p. 299-340.
motif repeatedly in his graphic work as well as in painting23. However,
19. Cf. Christadler Maike, ‘Zwischen Tod und Versuchung’, in S. Knöll (ed.), Frauen –
Sünde – Tod, Düsseldorf, University Press, 2010, p. 28-40; Guthke Karl S., The Gender
of Death. A Cultural History in Art and Literature, Cambridge, University Press, 1999,
esp. chapter 5 and plates 23-24. 21. The Courtauld Gallery, London, http://artandarchitecture.org.uk/images/gallery/
20. Amsterdam, Rijksmuseum, no. RP-P-OB-190. The man is interpreted as a fortune teller b417a2cd.html.
in Stone-Ferrier Linda A., Dutch Prints of Daily Life: Mirrors of Life or Masks of Morals ?, 22. Cf. Hülsen-Esch et al., op.cit., vol. 2, cat. 38-64.
Lawrence, Spencer Museum of Art, 1983, cat. 37, while an alternative interpretation makes 23. Westermann Mariët, ‘Adriaen van de Venne, Jan Steen, and the Art of Serious Play’,
him a hermit (op.cit., n. 1), but the man’s rich attire seems to rule out both these readings. De Zeventiende Eeuw, 15, 1999, p. 34-47, esp. p. 42-47.

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Sophie Oosterwijk Morbid morality
he adopted a much darker approach by focusing on poverty and old
age. One example is his 1632 grisaille oil panel Ellenden-eind (End of
misery)24, in which Death uses shears to despatch a dozing old peasant in
the corner of a hovel while the family by the fire remains unaware; only
the dog in the centre is watching. The title on a scroll by the door may
suggest that Death brings deliverance here, but this low-life scene also
contains social satire and caricature.
The artist even repeated his 1630 grisaille composition Ellend’ Soeckt de
Doot (Misery seeks death, or even: Death seeks misery) (present location
unknown) in a slightly larger variant in 1632 (Hermitage, St Petersburg),
while the earlier composition is known in at least one workshop copy in
colour, indicating a demand for this type of work25. In these panels, the
state of miserable poverty is represented by a beggar woman with her
right arm in a sling and a baby on her back, who seems keen to escape
her grim existence by following Death.
The views of Van de Venne and his patrons concerning the poor were
not quite so charitable. Beggars were increasingly viewed as responsible
for their own condition and the irony is palpable in the artist’s other
compositions and cynical titles, which often juxtapose poverty and
wealth. In the 1631 oil painting Weeldige Armoede ! (Luxurious poverty !)
a beggar couple hop around, gleefully unaware of Death playing the Fig. 5 - Adriaen van de Venne, Elck Sijn Tijt-Verdrijff (To each his own pastime),
shawm behind them (Museum of Fine Arts, Springfield)26. A 1638 c. 1632 (?). Red chalk, 352 x 449 mm. New York, Metropolitan Museum.
set of wash and chalk drawings entitled Noot Dood (Hard Death, or
alternatively: Need kills) contains Beggar Children with Death on a
Much closer to the moralising middle-class scenes discussed in this
Handcart and Beggar Woman with Crutches and Death Embracing, but
paper are Van de Venne’s pen and brush drawings of around 1623-28
also a brutal image of Death battering a fallen cripple with his own
entitled Old Couple Willingly Following Death Playing the Bagpipes and
crutch (Albertina, Vienna)27.
Old Man Taken by Death from his Wife and Grandchildren, both of them
illustrations for the 1632 edition of the bestseller Hovwelyk (Marriage)
by the Dutch moralist Jacob Cats (1577-1660)28. The first scene shows
24. Amsterdam, Rijksmuseum, no. SK-A-1770.
25. Westermann, op.cit., p.  46 and fig. 10. Westermann Mariët, ‘Fray en Leelijck.
Death luring a couple away, but both are old and presumably ready to
Adriaen van de Venne’s Invention of the Ironic Grisaille’, Nederlands Kunsthistorisch die; they may even be blind and just following the sound of Death’s
Jaarboek, 50, 1999, p. 220-257, at 249-252. The workshop copy was sold at Hampel bagpipes. In the second drawing, it is the family who is trying in vain to
Fine Art Auctions in Munich on 28 September 2017, lot 806. cling on to the old man whom Death drags away from his canopied bed.
26. Westermann, ‘Adriaen van de Venne’, fig. 7. While both drawings lack the pathos of young love’s demise, they do
27. Westermann, op.cit., p. 46 and fig. 11; Royalton-Kisch Martin, Adriaen van de
Venne’s Album in the Department of Prints and Drawings in the British Museum, London,
British Museum, 1988, p. 88-90. 28. Amsterdam, Rijksmuseum, no. RP-T-1879-A-4 and RP-T-1898-A-4067.

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Sophie Oosterwijk Morbid morality
illustrate loyal companionship in old age. Cats’s bestseller was aimed at
middle-class readers, which explains the rich attire worn by the characters
in both drawings, very different from the rags worn by the beggars in
Van de Venne’s more biting Danse macabre interpretations.
Much more like a true genre scene is Van de Venne’s red chalk drawing

Fig. 6 - Gesina ter Borch, after Holbein’s dagger sheath design, Dance of Death, 1660-1687,
Elck Sijn Tijt-Verdrijff (To each his own pastime) of around 1632, except
for the presence of Death between the curtains gazing at an elegant couple
playing a game of shuttlecock, assisted by a young page (fig. 5)29. Only

Family Scrapbook, f. 23. Brush in black and various colours. Amsterdam,


the second servant on the left seems to notice Death, while the couple is
unaware. The tiled floor is littered with playing cards, drinking glasses and
a pipe, and a lute lies upside down on the table. The ironic title underlines
the folly of blindly wasting one’s precious time on frivolous pursuits.

Danse macabre motifs in the work of Gesina ter Borch


If Van de Venne’s Elck Sijn Tijt-Verdrijff is much more refined than
his grim depictions of beggars, it is still satirical. Other artists were less
subtle. The Last Drop (Philadelphia Museum of Art) of around 1629 by
the Haarlem artist Judith Leyster (1609-1660) shows a night scene in
the merry company tradition. As one man raises his pipe while holding
his empty tankard upside down, his seated companion greedily swallows
his last drop.  Only a restoration revealed behind the seated man the
overpainted spectre of Death, mimicking the other drinker’s pose by
Rijksprentenkabinet. balancing a raised hourglass with a skull and a lit candle in his left hand30.
Perhaps depicting overindulgence on Shrove Tuesday, this could be a
pendant of Merry Trio (formerly in the Noortman Collection)31. Vanitas
was a familiar motif among Haarlem artists: Frans Hals (c.1585-1666)

29. Buijsen Edwin, ‘Roodkrijttekeningen naar Schilderijen van Adriaen van de Venne
en hun Mogelijke Functie’, Oud Holland, 118, 2005, p. 131-202, cat. 3 at p. 160-161;
cf. Royalton-Kisch, op.cit., cat. 22. The composition was re-used without Death as an
emblem in Cats’s 1632 bestseller Spiegel vanden Ouden ende Nieuwe Tijd (Mirror of the
old and new time), where it is set in a garden and carries the motto ‘Amor, ut pila, vices
exigit’ (Love, like a ball, requires reciprocation).
30. Welu James et al., Judith Leyster: A Dutch Master and her World, Worcester, Mass.,
Worcester Art Museum, 1993, cat. 6.
31. Welu, op.cit., cat. 5.

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Sophie Oosterwijk Morbid morality
painted several figures with skulls32, while Leyster’s husband Jan Miense
Molenaer (1609/10-1668) painted the panel Carousing Peasants and

Fig. 7 - a) Gesina ter Borch, Merry Company Visited by Death, 1660, Family Scrapbook, f. 16. Brush in black and
Death of around 1640 (Jagdschloss Grunewald, Berlin), which shows
Death intruding upon another rowdy scene.
Rather different is the case of Gesina ter Borch (1633-1690), who
came from a talented artistic family, her older half-brother being the
famous genre and portrait painter Gerard ter Borch (1617-1681). Yet
Gesina’s artistic development was hampered by her sex, so she became
an amateur artist who compiled several albums of family drawings and
poetry as a private pursuit33. Her own delicate watercolours include several
tableaux with a rather morbid bent, such as a heartbroken lover stabbing
himself and a tavern scene with one hanged man and another stabbed to
death. Some drawings in the so-called Family Scrapbook (Rijksmuseum,
Amsterdam) have a clear commemorative character, especially those
relating to her young brother Moses’s death in battle in 1667, but this
may also be true of a drawing of Death running towards a little girl near
an open grave and another of Death next to a woman inside the choir of
St Michael’s church in Gesina’s home town of Zwolle34.
However, four drawings in the Family Scrapbook demonstrate an

various colours. Amsterdam, Rijksprentenkabinet.


unmistakable awareness of the Danse macabre tradition, and Holbein’s
work in particular35. Gesina created pen and brush copies after Holbein’s
dagger sheath design with a Danse macabre, each consisting of three
living and three dead figures, which are mounted onto two consecutive
pages of her Scrapbook above her own colour re-interpretations that
modernise Holbein’s designs by adapting the figures to her own period,
environment and daily life. Thus on f. 23 she modified some of the

32. For example, Young Man Holding a Skull of c.1626-28, National Gallery, London,
no. NG6458.
33. Kettering Alison McNeil, Drawings from the Ter Borch Studio Estate, 2 vols, The
Hague, Staatsuitgeverij, 1988.
34. Oosterwijk Sophie, with Zamboni Alice, ‘Painted Remembrance. The Drawings
and Paintings of the Seventeenth-Century Dutch Ter Borch Family’, Church Monuments,
31, 2016, p. 149-174.
35. On 22 September 2016 the author and Alice Zamboni presented a paper entitled
‘Holbein Transmuted. The Macabre Drawings of Gesina ter Borch (1631–1690)’ in
Veste Coburg at the conference ‘Kleine Bilder, große Wirkung. Holbeins Bilder des Todes
und ihre Rezeption’ organised by Dr Stefanie Knöll.

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Sophie Oosterwijk Morbid morality
postures and made changes to two figures: instead of the standard-bearer
on the far right she chose to depict a young woman, while a gentleman
with a plumed hat and a movement to the right replaces the noblewoman
in the centre (fig. 6). Overall, the clothes of Gesina’s figures match 17th-
century fashion and not that of Holbein’s era, which shows that she did
not just copy, but skilfully created new works of art.
Even more interesting is her 1660 watercolour of a merry company
on f. 16 of the same Scrapbook (fig. 7a)36. A party of three men and
five elegant young ladies around a table inside a high-ceilinged room is
rudely interrupted by not one, but seven animated corpses. Two on the
left pose as servants, another carries a guitar while a fourth cadaver tries
to force one young lady to dance with him, despite her male companion’s
attempt to defend her with a knife. A fifth cadaver has seated himself
at the table beside a horrified woman, raising a glass in his left hand
while grabbing her wrist with his right. Opposite them a young man
tries to fight off another cadaver with his rapier, while on the far right
the seventh cadaver is leading one of the ladies to the door. Outside, a
funeral cortege wends its way towards a church, a subject also shown in
the left-hand painting on the wall.
Even if the weak sense of drama demonstrates Gesina’s artistic
limitations, the watercolour is beautifully executed with a keen eye for Fig. 7 - b) Detail of Holbein’s Beinhauskapelle in the background of Gesina ter
detail and a good grasp of human anatomy. The latter may be due to her Borch, Merry Company Visited by Death.
having had access to models : perhaps anatomical prints, but certainly
Holbein’s own Danse macabre compositions, and not only the dagger genre scenes of merrymaking and seduction, but with a twist. In
sheath design, for the right-hand painting on the wall is based on the traditional genre scenes the moral is often presented more discreetly,
Beinhauskapelle woodcut in his Images of Death (fig. 7b). Moreover, the but in the scenes discussed here the explicit presence of Death makes
pose of the young man with the rapier is very similar to that of Holbein’s the negative connotations of human misconduct – especially the wilful
Nobleman trying to fend off Death with his sword. Gesina’s Merry frivolity of the young and rich – very obvious. At the same time, these
Company is thus influenced both by Holbein’s work – also in featuring moralising images are steeped in the vanitas tradition warning us that
multiple corpses instead of a single figure of Death – and by the Dutch all earthly pleasures – youth, beauty, love and wealth – are but fleeting.
genre and vanitas tradition of elegant young people at leisure.
Can we describe these images as Danse macabre scenes? Most stand
As we have seen, Dutch 17th-century re-interpretations of the Danse alone or at best form a pair, yet they carry a very similar message. There is
macabre motif have much in common with earlier and contemporary no doubt that the Danse macabre was a strong influence on these Dutch
adaptations and familiarity with the theme is confirmed by contemporary
36. The way in which Gesina compiled her Scrapbook leaves the chronology of the
Dutch inventories that list printed and illustrated editions by Holbein,
drawings unclear, but some do carry a date. Matthäus Merian, and Rudolf and Conrad Meyer (1650), while the

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Sophie Oosterwijk

Danses
Beinhauskapelle scene from Holbein’s Images of Death was reproduced as
an illustration on the title page of the 1615 and 1633 editions of Pieter
Pauw’s treatise Primitiae Anatomicae. De humani Corporis Ossibus 37 (fig. 8).

macabres
Whereas Rubens just copied Holbein’s woodcuts, Dutch artists re-
interpreted the Danse macabre in their own moralistic ways.

monumentales

Fig. 8 -
Beinhauskapelle woodcut after
Hans Holbein, detail from
the title page of Pieter Pauw’s
Primitiae Anatomicae.
De humani Corporis Ossibus
(Leiden, 1615).

37. I am grateful to Alice Zamboni for this information. See Kutia Sergey A.,
Shaymardanova Leylia R., ‘Pieter Pauw (1564-1617)’, Russian Open Medical Journal,
6, 2017, e0309, fig. 3, accessed at http://www.romj.org/2017-0309.

194 | Actes du xviiie congrès international de l’association Danses macabres d’Europe


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