The Cook

The Cook
Basel's dance of death, The cook

Todt zum Koch:
KOmm her Hans Koch du must darvon,
   Wie bist so feist, du kanst kaum gohn:
Hast du schon kocht viel süsser Schleck,
   Wird dir jetzt sawr, du must hinweg.

Death to The Cook
Come here, Hans Cook, you must away.
How fat you are, you can hardly walk.
Even if you have boiled much sweet candy,
it will go sour for you now. You must away.

Der Koch.
ICh hab kocht Hüner, Gänß vnd Fisch,
   Meim Herren vielmal vber Tisch,
Wildbrätt, Pastet vnd Marziban:
   O weh meins Bauchs, ich muß darvon.

The Cook.
I have cooked many chickens, geese and fish
for my master's table several times.
Wild-roast, pâté and marcipan.
Oh woe, my stomach. I must go away.
Kleinbasel, Cook
Büchel, Cook
Holbein, The abbot
Holbein Proofs, Abbot

After having passed 14 new participants, we now return to the regular participants in The High German Four-Line Dance of Death, namely the cook.

As the picture of the cook in Kleinbasel (to the left) shows, the picture used to be far less dynamic: Death is standing and talking to a man with a large spoon.

Apparently the mural in Großbasel has been "spiffed up" during a renovation, probably by Kluber in 1568, who has looked at Holbein's woodcut of the abbot. Death holds the cook's skewer in the same way as the abbot's staff.

Jobst Amman: cook
Amman, Cook
Bleibach: Cook
Bleibach: Cook

On the other hand, the figure of the cook seems to be inspired by the cook in Jobst Amman's "Eygentliche Beschreibung aller Stände auff Erden". This book is from 1568 — i.e. the same year as Hans Kluber's renovation.


Basel's cook has inspired the dance of death in Bleibach (picture to the right).

Großbasel, Cook, by Büchel
Büchel, Cook
Großbasel, Cook.
Gouache from ca. 1600
Großbasel, Cook

If we compare Merian's copperplate (above) with the watercolour Büchel made 100 years later (to the left), there are several differences:

The cook is not spilling water out of his jug, he carries his dagger at the other side of his body, and Death and the cook stands further apart from each other. On Merian's picture one can see Death's leg between the cook's, on Büchel's picture one sees Death's heel.

If we then compare this with the coloured gouaches from ca. 1600 (picture to the right), we can see that Merian is right about the water running out of the jug, so the mural must have been changed in the 100 years separating Merian and Büchel

But concerning the composition with Death's heel between the cook's legs, the gouache confirms that Merian has taken a few artistic liberties and moved the figures far too close to each other.

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

Come here, John Cook, you too must trudge,
How fat you've grown, you scarce can budge;
Full many a morsel sweet you've cooked,
Now all is sour, for you are booked.

Fat Capons, geese and fish I've dressed,
My master's table oft was pressed.
Venison, pastry and sweet cake,
To leave you makes my belly ache.

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

Come here John cook, thou must now go,
Thou are so fat, thou canst not go,
Hast thou been cooking to this hour,
Much sweet meats, now they will be sour.

I have cook'd, chiken, gees and fish,
For my lords table many a dish,
Marchpan, venison and pie
O woe my belly I must die.


Various Artists

Scharffenberg (1576)
Scharffenberg 1576: Cook
Merian (1621)
Merian 1621: Cook
Chovin (1744)
Chovin 1744: Cook
Büchel (1768)
Büchel 1768: Cook
Büchel (1773)
Büchel 1773: Cook
Fragment (1805)
Fragment 1805: Cook
Feyerabend (1806)
Feyerabend 1806: Cook
Hess (1841)
Hess 1841: Cook
Beck (1852)
Beck 1852: Cook
Stuckert (1858)
Stuckert 1858: Cook
Curmer (1858)
Curmer 1858: Cook