Adam and Eve

Adam and Eve
Basel's dance of death, Adam and Eve
Frölich 1588, Adam & Eve
Scharffenberg, The Fall

The dance ends with a picture of Adam and Eve. Along with the picture comes a long sermon about the Fall, the Original Sin and Christ as the Great Redeemer (see bottom of this page).

With this text Hans Kluber was able to remove the mural from its Catholic roots and instead turn it into Protestant propaganda. In that way Kluber also made it possible for the mural to survive the changing tastes and fashions for a few more centuries.

The position and size of this scene is hard to figure out. Our oldest sources, those that are older than Merian, are all silent:

So the long and short of it is, that none of our sources before Merian indicate there ever was a Paradise scene. Except for Frölich's 1588-edition.

Zwen Todentäntz, 1588

Frölich also includes a woodcut of the expulsion from Paradise.
Scharffenberg, Expulsion

Frölich illustrated his 1588-edition, Zwen Todentäntz, with numerous woodcuts, the majority of which were (bad) copies of Holbein's dance of death produced 12 years earlier, in 1576,

Frölich used these woodcuts to illustrate the dances of death in Basel and in Bern. First he brought those woodcuts that could illustrate the dance in Basel, and then the woodcuts that could illustrate Bern but not Basel. Finally he brought those woodcuts (canon, sailor, gambler, boozer and robber) that he couldn't fit with either of the two dances. These last 5 woodcuts were given the headline "Concinnator" to show that it was him, the author, who had invented the dialogue.

In this book from 1588 Adam & Eve are the first to appear (even though they were the last on the mural in Basel) and there is no text resembling Merian's. Instead the illustration was used to introduce the dance of death, which was intended to explain about the hardness of life, in Latin and German:

ADAM und EVA durch den Fall,
  In was noht bracht uns Menschen all,
Werden ordenlich in Latein,
  Und Teutsche Verss erklären sein.

This verse is also headlined "Concinnator" and this text is obviously not from the mural, since the painting didn't contain any Latin "explanations".

It should be clear by now that the long text included by Merian was unknown before him. Either it was added at the renovation in 1616, or it was invented by himself. Personally I'm inclined to believe the latter, since the text is simply too voluminous to have been painted on an outdoor wall.

The open question is whether Frölich's woodcut is another (bad) copy of Holbein's Fall of Man, or if the image is one of the very few — like cook, heathen and painter — that were copied from the dance in Basel. This is very difficult to answer, since our other witnesses to the image (Merian and Feyerabend) are mutually very different:

Adam and Eve
Albrecht Dürer, 1504
Holbein Proofs, Paradise
Holbein, 1526
Scharffenberg, The Fall
Frölich, 1588
Merian, Adam and Eve
Merian, 1621
Feyerabend, Adam and Eve
Feyerabend, 1806

The above comparison shows great differences between Holbein's and Frölich's images: Holbein lets Adam pass the fruit to Eve (instead of vice versa), Eve is sitting down; the area is full of animals; and the subtil serpent has a human head.

Frölich also has similarities with the famous etching by Dürer. For instance both af the images have a rabbit, which Frölich also includes in the depiction of the Expulsion (further up, to the right).

Merian and Frölich share the posture of the bodies (also with Dürer), but in contrast there's a marked difference when it comes to the animals in the background. Frölich doesn't have the parrot, which Dürer, Merian and Feyerabend (see further down) all share, and he doesn't have the lion and the eagle that Merian and Feyerabend have.

Placement and Size of the Scene

In Merians copperplates, Adam & Eve are included in all editions, from 1621 and later. The picture of Adam & Eve (top of this page) is not broader than the rest of the plates in the series, and Adam & Eve are placed after the painter and his wife.

Feyerabend 1806, Adam & Eve
Basel, Feyerabend

In contrast, Büchel makes an reproduction where Adam and Eve are far broader the rest of the scenes(1) and Büchel informs us that the painter and his family have been removed during a later restoration, and that the paradise-scene was moved to fill up the space.(2)

Unfortunately I haven't seen Büchel's watercolour myself, but let us instead look at Feyerabend's watercolour (to the right). Feyerabend painted his watercolour in 1806, i.e. the year after the wall with the mural was demolished. He uses Merian's copperplates (or rather Chovin's copies of Merian's plates) for support and includes the painter and his wife (in the same wrong sequence as Merian).

Precisely when it comes to Adam & Eve, Feyerabend deviates markedly from Merian: First comes the unicorn, then an eagle, then Adam & Eve around a small tree with a parrot, then the Tree of Knowledge with serpent and finally a lion. Presumably Feyerabend in 1806, the year after the mural was destroyed, still had the painting fresh in memory. His painting looks exactly like the way Burckhardt-Biederman(1) describes Büchel's painting.

Burckhardt-Biederman suggests this model over the different renovations:

RenovationFiguresOur source
1568 (Kluber)Painter's familyPainter
1616 (Bock)Painter's familyPainterAdam & EveMerian
1658 (Meyer)
Adam & Eve

The problem with this model is that it doesn't take the child into account. Burckhardt-Biederman hides this by writing "Painter's family", but the fact is that all our witnesses: Ludwig Iselin's manuscript from 1577, Der Todendantz, the gouaches and Frölich gives us one dialogue for the child and another for the mother / paintress. The model doesn't explain very well either, how a picture book with gouaches from 1600 (which was unknown to Burckhardt-Biederman) can contain a picture of the child.

Dr. Uli Wunderlich(3) instead suggest this model:

Original   Child   Child's Mother
1568 (Kluber)   Child  
Painter's familyPainter
1616 (Bock)
Adam & Eve
Painter's familyPainter
1658 (Meyer)
Adam & Eve

The problem with Wunderlich's model is that Frölich places the Turk at the very end of the dance — first the child, then the child's mother, then the painter and finally the Turk. Frölich's book finishes with the Turk's dialogue, and he then tells an imaginary "satyr", »Hiemit die Reüm des Todtentanz, O Satyre sich enden gantz« (= "Hereby, oh Satyr, the rhymes of the dance of death ends totally").

The same thing is true for Der Todendantz and for Ludwig Iselin's manuscript from 1577. They all agree in placing the Turk at the end - after the painter.

Merian doesn't know anything about a Turk, but he places Adam & Eve after the painter and his family. It should be noted that Merian places the painter before the painter's wife, which is an obvious error, but we still know that Adam & Eve must be the last in the dance, because they are followed by a long, boring sermon - the sheer size of which proves that the text couldn't have been inside the dance of death.

Wunderlich's model is thus contradicted by all our witnesses: Frölich, Der Todendantz, Iselin and Merian.

What can we conclude then? Not much. Logically the painter should be the very last dancer, looking back and contemplating his work. The painter's dialogue is much longer than the others, so there hasn't been much room for the next dancer. Nonetheless all our oldest witnesses agree that the dance ended with child, mother, painter and Turk. Thus the Turk must have been a later addition than the painter, which is at odds with the fact that there was only 9 years from Hans Kluber's renovation in 1568 to Iselin's manuscript from 1577. This leads to the bold conclusion that there was a painter in the dance long before Kluber's renovation, and that Klauber has simply replaced the name of this painter with his own.

In the same way all our witnesses agree that there wasn't a scene with Adam & Eve. The first time they appear is in Frölich's 1588-edition, but here they are placed in the start of the dance and without the long text that accompanies them in Merian's edition. On the other hand, there's no denying a certain similarity between Frölich's woodcut og Merian's etching (the unicorn and the placement of Adam's hand), which leads to another bold conclusion, namely that it was Frölich's woodcut, that inspired Bock to add this scene on the mural during the restauration in 1616.

Here follows the text from Merian's book:

SEcht hie der Spiegel(4) aller Welt,
Der uns darumb wird fürgestellt,
Daß wir Anfang, Mittel und End,
Betrachten fleissig und behend.

DEr Anfang in dem Paradeiß,
Was herrlich, voll Lob, Ehr und Preiß:
Darauff folgt bald der leidig Fahl,
Und stürtzt uns in solch Jammerthal.

DAs die wir sonsten sollen seyn,
Unsterblich, schön und Engelrein:
Die wir auch uber groß und klein,
Der G'schöpffen GOttes in gemein.

SOlten herrschen vernünfftiglich,
Und alles besitzen ewiglich,
Sind leyder GOtt erbarms zumahl,
In Sünd verderbt ohn Maß und Zahl.

DIe Kron und Scepter war verlorn,
Und sahen nichts dann GOttes Zorn,
Darauff der grausam Todt so g'schwind,
Erwürget alle Menschen-Kind.

ALl's was da lebt gleich wie das Kraut,
Mit seiner Sensen niederhawt,
Niemand so groß und herrlich war,
Den er nicht fasste bey dem Haar.

UNd schleusst ihn in das Grab hinein,
Da muß eins jeden Tantzplatz seyn,
Nun aber ist der Todt auch g'storben,
Und haben wir den Sieg erworben.

DUrch Christi Todt und Höllenfahrt,
Der unser jetzt im Himmel wart,
Und ist der Todt in Schlaff verkehrt,
Der uns nun willkomm lieb und werth.

Mit stiller Stund, gehn wir zu Grund.

In this case there are two different English versions. One is used in books published by C.F.Beck, and the other by Fuchs, Stuckert and Schneider.

English translation from C.F.Beck

See this world-mirror, 'tis a show,
Prepared and giv'n, that we may know
Beginning, end, and all between,
And lay 'to heart things yet unseen.

In Paradise man's first estate
Was glorious, blessed, good and great;
But soon alas! the dreadful fall
Brought Death and sorrow on us all.

    The hour glides by
    We All must die.

Fuchs, Stuckert and Schneider

Such the fate of human kind,
Life's beginning and life's end,
All of us let duly mind,
And to God our souls commend!

Tho' glorious first in Paradise
And full of grace and favour,
Yet Adam fell through the fiend's device,
But Christ has come his saviour.

Various Artists

Merian (1621)
Merian 1621: Adam and Eve
Merian (1700)
Merian 1700: Adam and Eve
Chovin (1744)
Chovin 1744: Adam and Eve
Feyerabend (1806)
Feyerabend 1806: Adam and Eve
Beck (1852)
Beck 1852: Adam and Eve
Stuckert (1858)
Stuckert 1858: Adam and Eve

Footnotes: (1) (2) (3) (4)

I haven't myself seen this picture of Büchel, which appears to be under lock and key in the Swiss archives. I have to rely on scholars like Th. Burckhardt-Biedermann in Ueber die Basler Todtentänze, 1876, revised 1881.

Burckhardt-Biedermann compares Merian's and Büchel's pictures of Paradise thusly: Vergleichen wir diese Merian'schen Bilder mit den von Emanuel Büchel im Jahr 1773 aufgenommenen, so ergiebt sich, daß die Uebermalungen von 1658 und 1703 kaum noch in unbedeutenden Einzelheiten etwas veränderten. Nur das allerletzte Bild, der Sündenfall, erscheint bei Büchel in die Breite gezogen und verändert und hat die beiden ihm zunächst vorangehenden Gruppen des Malers und der Malerin (Kind und Mutter) verdrängt. Denn während bei Merlans "Paradies" der Baum mit der Schlange noch zwischen den Ureltern steht, der Löwe hinter Adam, das Einhorn hinter Eva und rechts von ihr der Papagei erscheint: sitzt nun bei Büchel der Papagei zwischen dem Paare auf einem Strauch, ist der Baum mit der Schlange seitwärts rechts neben Eva gerückt und noch weiter hinaus der stehende Löwe; links von Adam steht ein Adler mit ausgebreiteten Flügeln und zu äußerst links, in weiter Entfernung, ruht, die übrige Gruppe betrachtend, das Einhorn. Das Bild erscheint bei Büchel etwa dreimal so breit als hoch.

Büchel writes »Entlich machet der Bauer den völligen Beschluß des Todten-Tanzes, hinder demselben stehnde zu Merians Zeiten gedachter Hans Hug Klauber der Mahler, welcher sich selbsten samt seinem Weib und Kindern anhin abgeschildert hatte. Er starb im Jahr 1578. seines Alters 42 Jahr. Um den Platz wo er gestanden, wiederum außzufüllen, hat man die Vorstellung deß Paradieses, wie es der Anschein muthmaßen läßt, weiter auseinandergerückt.«

(I quote from Massmann's Die Baseler Todtentänze in Getreuen Abbildungen, Stuttgart 1847)

Uli Wunderlich. . .: in the article "Ein Bild Verändert sich. Die Bedeutung der neuentdeckten Gouachen für die Rekonstruktion des Basler Totentanzes."
der Spiegel. . .: Check the page about the dance of death as a mirror.