I got right distracted today while working on the Healing Arts posts, distracted right into the amazing world of The Dance Of Death. There’s a large body of work by different artists devoted to this particular aspect of death, and they widely range in style, to say the very least. All of the art work is very beautiful, and is often poignant, witty, and sly. The main message being that death is no respecter of persons.
So this will be a sort of companion series to the Healing Arts. I’m going to start with Basel’s Dance of Death by Hieronymus Hess (1799-1850). These are based on copies of a mural which was done around around 1435-1441. The wall with the original mural was lost long ago, in 1804. Some fragments survive and are housed in a museum. We open with The Ossuary and Death’s first conquest, The Pope. Death looks positively gleeful walking off with the pope. I’m quite enchanted with Hess’s portrayal of Death as a mostly fleshed character who must maintain modesty when it comes to the private bits. Death also changes gender in Hess’s portrayals, and there are obvious character shifts in Death, dependent on just who is being claimed. In The Pope, it almost looks as if Death were wearing a skull mask.