Basel: The Queen

The Queen
Basel's dance of death, The queen

Todt zur Königin:
FRaw Königin Euwr Frewd ist auß,
   Springen mit mir ins Todten-Hauß,
Euch hilfft kein Schöne, Gold noch Gelt,
   Ich spring mit euch in jene Welt.

Death to The Queen
Mrs. Queen, your joy has ended,
dance with me into the death-house.
Neither beauty, gold nor money will help you.
I'm dancing with you into the next world.

Die Königin:
O Weh vnd Ach, O weh vnd jmmer,
   Wo ist jetzund mein Frawenzimmer,
Mit denen ich hatt Frewden viel:
   O Todt thu g'mach, mit mir nicht eyl.

The queen.
Oh woe and alas, oh woe for ever.
Where is now my band of maids(1)
with whom I had many pleasures?
Oh Death, take it easy, don't hurry with me.
Kleinbasel, cardinal.
Büchel, Cardinal
Original cardinal (under the queen).
Notice, how much he looks like the cardinal in Kleinbasel (to the left).
Fragment, Cardinal

If you look at the same position in the dance of death in Kleinbasel, there's not a queen, but a cardinal (see picture to the left). This is because the queen is a new addition: In Großbasel the cardinal has moved one step to the right and replaced the patriarch, after which the old cardinal was painted over and replaced by a queen.

In the museum in Basel there was a fragment of the mural with the queen. When the newest layers of paint were removed, the original cardinal appeared (picture to the right). Notice, how the placing of arms and cross are like in Kleinbasel.

This change is presumed to have been made by Hans Kluber in 1568 as a part of the efforts to reduce the number of Catholic clerics.

Büchel, Queen
Büchel, Queen

Notice that Death, quite exceptionally, is of female gender. But as the picture from Kleinbasel shows, this detail is of a recent date. When the victim was changed from a cardinal to a queen, Death underwent a corresponding "gender reassignment".

Büchels watercolour is somewhat different from Merian's copperplates: The serpent around Death's neck is shorter, but on the other hand there's one more snake crawling out of her bursted breasts. The big question is of course, whether Merian is a bad witness, or whether the mural was changed in the 150 years that separate Merian and Büchel.

English translation from Beck, 1852
Death to the Queen.The Queen's reply.

O Queen! for joy there's no more room,
You must descend into the tomb;
No gold avails nor beauty's sheen
To keep you from the world unseen.

Alas! Alas! now woe is me!
Where are my maids? no one I see,
Of all with whom I used to smile;
O Death! yet spare me for a while.

Translation from Hess, 1841
Death to the Queen.Answer of the Queen.

Lady queen, your joy is out,
Leap with me to the charnel house,
No beauty helps you neither cash non gold,
I jump with you in the other world.

O woe! o ah! o woe! and ever,
Where tarry now my gentel women,
On whom, I had my greatest taste,
O death do gently with me not haste.


Various Artists

Merian (1621)
Merian 1621: Queen
Chovin (1744)
Chovin 1744: Queen
Büchel (1773)
Büchel 1773: Queen
Büchel (1773)
Büchel 1773: Queen
Feyerabend (1806)
Feyerabend 1806: Queen
Hess (1841)
Hess 1841: Queen
Beck (1852)
Beck 1852: Queen
Stuckert (1858)
Stuckert 1858: Queen

Footnotes: (1)

Frawenzimmer. . .: The original and literal meaning of the word is "a room with women" like for instance a queen's court ladies. I'm indebted to Mischa von Perger for this information.