Dresden's dance of death was in many ways different from all other German / Swiss / French / English / Danish dances of death featured on the present site.
First of all, it was neither a painting (as in e.g. Lübeck and Tallinn) or a book (as e.g. Der Doten Dantz mit figuren), but instead a bas-relief carved in sandstone.
The dance is a frieze that measures 1.22 meters in height and 12.47 meters in length. The 27 figures are distributed on nine plates.(1)
Today, all the many layers of paint and mortar have been removed — and also the original paint and gilding so that only the sandstone is left.
Second, the dance was not (originally) located in a clerical building such as a church, cemetery or monastery, but instead on the third floor of a beautiful renaissance castle.
The city's guests, crossing the Elbe River from the north, were greeted by a story of the Original Sin and Death as the wages of Sin. On the south side of the castle, on the other hand, was the story of Christ and (the Catholic) salvation.
Third, unlike the monumental dances in Lübeck, Basel, Bern, etc., there is no dialogue between Death and his victims. This may have been related to the fact that the dance was located on the third floor.
When the castle burned and the frieze was mounted instead in the wall of a cemetery at eye level, verses were added, but this was mostly done to alleviate worries the congregation might have about the work in itself being too "Papist".
Fourth, Death does not meet his victims one at a time, but leads several away in a long line. This is unusual, but not totally unheard of. The same thing is true for the so-called Augsburger totentanz.
And fifth, there is no other dance of death that has had an equally changeable life and has been moved around so many times and been repainted in new colors so often.
Today the frieze is hanging inside the Dreikönigskirche of Dresden, but it took over 400 years before it ended here. Originally, the dance was part of the facade of the duke's castle.
The first chapter in the series is about the dance at the castle.
nine plates . . .: Wikipedia says ten.
We'll take a closer look when we get to the individual dancers.