Les Accidens de l'Homme


Adam and Eve
Cain and Abel
Young and old
Earthly goods
Three allies
Dinner table
Judgment day

"Mors de la pomme" starts with Adam & Eve and The Fall.
Mors de la Pomme, Pomme

Les Accidens de l'Homme is a series of 26 metal cuts. It was printed in the margins of books of hours published by Simon Vostre from the year 1512 onwards — as a sort of alternative to Simon Vostre's more normal Dance Macabre.

Accidens builds on a tradition that goes back to Mors de la Pomme from 1461 or earlier: The personified Death boasts of how he (or perhaps rather "she", since the text is in French), has had power over man ever since Adam and Eve. Death does not dance around in a long chain dance as in Lübeck or Paris, but seeks out his victims individually in their daily lives between their family, friends and colleagues. The story ends with the resurrection and Judgment Day.

"Mors de la Pomme" has inspired parts of "La dance aux aveugles", The Dance of the Blind, a poem from approx. 1465 about three blind guides: Blind love, blind fortune and blind death. The section on the blind death includes 26 stanzas of 10 lines, which follow the "Mors"-tradition, with Death accosting people in their everyday life — starting with Adam & Eve and ending with Judgment Day. What is new is that Death doesn't work alone but employs allegorical creatures: "Accident", "Mortalité", "Guerre", "Famine", "Aage" (old age), and "Justice".

In 1499, the stanzas from The Dance of the Blind were printed in the so-called Shepherdess Calender, and this publication is interesting for two reasons: Firstly, that the publisher has done away with three of the stanzas, so that there are now only 23, and secondly that the date, August 17, 1499, is established.. The favorable reader will know that fixed dates are rare in the world of medieval poetry.

Loups Ravissans

After this it becomes a little uncertain, but in 1505 a book was published by name "Loups ravissans", The ravening wolves. The text is very loosely based on The Dance of the Blind, but has been greatly expanded to 3,220 lines. In this text, the protagonist is "Accident", who employs "Mortalité", "Guerre" and "Famine", while "Aage" does not appear. The text is accompanied by 23 woodcuts (one of which is repeated), which are designed in a very lively style.

Shortly after, approx. 1506-07, books of hours published by Gilles and Germain Hardouyn were adorned with a series of images in the margins named La Vie de l'Homme. The 23 images are copied in detail after "Loups", but the format is different: they are tall and narrow in order to be printed in the margin. The 23 six-line stanzas are much inspired by "Aveugles" (see the table on the page about La Danse aux Aveugles).

Vie de l'Homme
Hardouyn, Bull

There is some uncertainty about this data. There are relatively few copies of "Vie", most of these books of hours are undated, and some of them are "hybrids": pieced together from different editions. The order of the stanzas is very random, e.g. whether Death comes first or last, the combination of text and images is careless and far from all verses or all images, appear in each book. See this dry table.

The series was copied by Guillaume Godard. The uncertainty is even greater here, but presumably it was Godard who copied Hardouyn, and not the other way around. The images are detailed copies of Hardouyn's, while the texts are extremely jumbled and fragmentary. Godard must probably be regarded as a dead end.

Holbein ends with Judgment Day
Holbein Proofs, Judgment Day

Around 1512 came the series that is the subject of this section, namely "Les Accidens de l'Homme". The images are clearly based on Hardoyn's, but are free copies, and the text is even freer. The 23 pictures and stanzas are expanded with three new ones: lèse-majesté, child and authority.

Simon Vostre used the same metal cuts for two other series with Latin texts, which I call Las Horas for lack of a better name. Again, there is uncertainty about the dates (and thus the order), however it must be assumed that the widespread "Accident" in the French vernacular is the original, while the rare Latin variants are later editions for the export market.

All the works mentioned on this page, have in common. that they have ultimately inspired Holbein's great dance of death. Holbein lets his dance of death begin with Creation and The Fall. He lets Death attack his victims at the court, at sea, on the highway and in deep cellars, and he ends his dance with resurrection and Judgment Day.

About this online-publication

The text on these pages has been taken from "Ces presentes heures a lusaige de Lion toutes" fra ca. 1513 (see external link). There is no particular reason why this particular edition was chosen, for Simon Vostre's publications are reasonably consistent and error-free.

The big pictures on each page are taken from "Heures a lusaige de Sens" except for #13 and #15 that have been torn.

The text from "lusaige de Lion" has been transcribed and translated by Mischa von Perger, author of Totentanz-Studien.

The dance starts here: Death.

Goo forth

The series starts with Death in the cemetery .

Click on the pictures to enter the dance.

Accidens de lHomme 1512: Death
Adam & Eve
Accidens de lHomme 1512: Adam & Eve
Cain & Abel
Accidens de lHomme 1512: Cain & Abel
Accidens de lHomme 1512: Cardinal
Accidens de lHomme 1512: Bull
Accidens de lHomme 1512: Usurer
Accidens de lHomme 1512: Unarmed
Accidens de lHomme 1512: Sheath
Accidens de lHomme 1512: Scythe
Accidens de lHomme 1512: Soldiers
Accidens de lHomme 1512: Woman
Accidens de lHomme 1512: Tower
Accidens de lHomme 1512: Strangling
Accidens de lHomme 1512: Gallow
Accidens de lHomme 1512: Beheading
Accidens de lHomme 1512: King
Accidens de lHomme 1512: Battle-axe
Accidens de lHomme 1512: Bed
Accidens de lHomme 1512: Fallen
Accidens de lHomme 1512: Child
Accidens de lHomme 1512: Crowd
Accidens de lHomme 1512: Meal
Accidens de lHomme 1512: Minstrel
Accidens de lHomme 1512: Hermit
Judgment Day
Accidens de lHomme 1512: Judgment Day
Accidens de lHomme 1512: Authority

External links