Hans Bock the Elder

Hans Bock (ca. 1550 - 1624) was a pupil of Hans Kluber and he bought Kluber's house from his widow in 1587. Hans Bock was the father of Emanuel Bock (born 1587), who restored the mural 1614-1616.

Hans Bock, Pope and emperor
Hans Bock, The start of Basel's dance of death

In 1596 Hans Bock was assigned the task of drawing a copy of the dance of death in Basel. Regrettably one a single sheet survives (picture above), but on the plus side this drawing is an important witness — partly because the drawing is from before Bock's son Emanuel restored the mural 1614-1616, and partly because the drawing gives us an opportunity to evaluate the reliability of our other witnesses.

Merian as a Witness

Merian: The pope with double cross
Basels dance of death, The pope
Büchel: The pope with cross
Basels dance of death, The pope

Merian is considered a trustworthy witness and therefore this site is based on Merian's book. But how reliable is Merian?

Death tells the pope that »the double cross and triple crown« won't help. Most written sources, with a single exception, agree with Merian in this text, but the funny thing is that Merian also draws the pope with a double cross (picture to the left). In contrast Büchel has equipped the pope with an ordinary cross (picture to the right), and that's also how the pope looks in Kleinbasel.

Who's right then? Hans Bock's picture unequivocally vindicates Büchel, since Hans Bock has drawn the pope with an ordinary cross. Could the difference be caused by the mural being renovated during the more than 100 years that separate Merian and Büchel? No, because Bock's drawing is from 1596 and thus older than both Merian and Büchel.

Read more about the pope and his cross.

Merian: Death without beard
Basels dance of death, Emperor
Büchel: Death with beard
Basels dance of death, Emperor

Another example is when Death comments on the emperor's beard: »Mr. Emperor with the gray beard«. Death himself is beardless — at least according to Merian (picture to the left), while Büchel portrays Death with a beard. Again it turns out that Hans Bock agrees with Büchel against Merian.

Unfortunately Hans Bock has only made this single sheet so we are unable to control Merian (and the other artists) when it comes to the rest of the dance.

Further Information