Heise "quotes" Gotthard von Hansen

Summary: Part 2 of 7 about why the painting in Tallinn is not a remnant of Lübeck's original painting from 1463.

Heise's knowledge about the painting in Tallinn is based on one, single source: Gotthard von Hansen's "Die Kirchen und ehemaligen Klöster Revals" from 1873 (reprinted 1976).

The empress from Tallinn - before the restoration.
The empress from Tallinn - before the restoration

Heise quotes Gotthard von Hansen for saying that the painting originally was longer - but that bishop, duke, abbot, knight, Carthusian monk and burgher had perished because of damp.(1)

Heise thinks that Gotthard von Hansen has made a mistake: It should be "Bürgermeister" (=burgomaster /mayor) instead of "Bürger" (=burgher). Heise has just used Jacob von Melle to "prove" that the first part of the painting — until the canon — had disappeared from Lübeck, and now he has "proved" that the fragment in Tallinn used to end with the mayor. The jigsaw puzzle is complete!

The thing is that the persons mentioned by von Hansen are those for which no dialogue has survived neither in Tallin nor Lübeck. von Hansen writes that what they had to say as well as Death's words to them has perished: »was der Bischof, Herzog, Abt, Ritter, Karthäuser und Bürger zu sprechen haben, wie die Worte, die der Tod an sie richtet […] zu Grunde gehen«.

It is illuminating to compare with Karl Russwurm's article from 1838. Russwurm was the first to edit and publish the text from Tallinn's dance, and he noticed that when combining the texts from from Tallinn and Lübeck, there was still a number of dancers, for whom no dialogue had survived. Russwurm's conclusion is very similar to von Hansen's — for all we know von Hansen might have used Russwurm as a source: »Es fehlen also gänzlich in Plattdeutscher Sprache die Worte des Bischofs, des Herzogs, des Abtes, des Ritters, des Karthäusers, des Bürgermeisters, so wie dasjenige, was der Tod ihnen antwortet«.(2)

Thus there is no mystery: Russwurm and von Hansen are just telling us, which persons are missing from von Melle's text.

There's also an alternative explanation: Maybe Gotthard von Hansen meant what he wrote, i.e. "Bürger" and not "Bürgermeister"? "Bürger" means citizen - or citizens. In other words: after the non-local clerics and noblemen followed a number of burghers from Lübeck.(3)

Max Hasse denies (page 20) that von Hansen could have meant burghers because in that case he (Gotthard von Hansen) would have written die Bürger. What Hasse is "forgetting" is that von Hansen just (page 38) had written »[…] dann wieder ein Tod und der Pabst, ferner Kaiser, Kaiserin, Kardinal, König und jedesmal dazwischen der Tod". Here too, von Hansen omits the "die" in "die Kaiserin".

Apart from these speculations there's a more important argument that Heise (and everybody else in the totentanz-business) "forgets", namely that von Hansen tells us that after the burgher(s) came several age levels(4) - which probably means old man (hermit), young man, young woman and baby. In other words: still more people hanging in both Tallinn and Lübeck.

Conclusion: Gotthard von Hansen never said that the fragment in Tallinn used to end with the mayor. Quite on the contrary.

Next section: Heise reads Gotthard von Hansen uncritically.

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

After having described the painting and quoted the text, G. von Hansen ends with: "Die folgenden Bilder und was der Bischof, Herzog, Abt, Ritter, Karthäuser und Bürger zu sprechen haben, wie die Worte, die der Tod an sie richtet, mußten leider im Laufe der Zeit, da sie unbeachtet an der feuchten Wand in dem Raume, wo alte Kirchengerätschaften und die Bahren standen, vielleicht Jahrhunderte lang hingen, eines nach dem anderen zu Grunde gehen" (p. 45).
The possible connection between Russwurm and von Hansen is suggested in the book "Der Totentanz der Marienkirche in Lübeck und der Nikolaikirche in Reval (Tallinn)" page 408, footnote 65.

Russwurm's article was published in three sections that are available in three pdf-files: part 1, part 2, part 3.

Paradoxically it took a Dane, Erik Moltke, to point this out (in the book "Bernt Notke's Altertavle i Århus Domkirke og Tallinntavlen").
G. von Hansen: "Hier fehlt nun mancher Stand und auch die verschiedenen Altersstufen sind nicht vorhanden, während in Lübeck 24 Bilder vorgeführt werden" (p. 39).

Up to Heise's hypothesis