Henri Léon Curmer (1858)

The dance starts with a copy of Mechel's frontispiece.
Curmer, Frontispiece
The best of them are quite good.
Bishop

This series is of high quality, and I must admit that I for a long time perfunctorily assumed they were Holbein's originals with French subtitles instead of the German headings used for the so-called printers' proofs. The best of them could easily be mistaken for genuine Holbein, and those that are less stellar could be taken for smudgy prints of the originals.

But in fact we are dealing with copies of copies. They were employed in the margins of books published by Curmer in Paris in the 1850ies and 1860ies, and according to these books,(1) they are copies of Joseph Schlotthauer's lithographs.

One way to see they are copies of Schlotthauer is that they have the same idiosynkrasi of giving Death white, staring eyeballs. Here is Death at the physician:

Original Holbein
Holbein
León Curmer
Curmer
Joseph Schlotthauer
Schlotthauer

Death at the nun:

Original Holbein
Holbein
León Curmer
Curmer
Joseph Schlotthauer
Schlotthauer

And Death at the senator:

Original Holbein
Holbein
León Curmer
Curmer
Joseph Schlotthauer
Schlotthauer

Another similarity is that Schlotthauer has expurgated the fool's private parts:

Original Holbein
Holbein
León Curmer
Curmer
Joseph Schlotthauer
Schlotthauer

The series contains 53 scenes by Holbein, i.e. all those woodcuts that were in the 1547-edition of Imagines Mortis. The series starts with a copy of Christian von Mechel's frontispiece, and ends with nine additional pictures, among others from Basel's dance of death.

Spanish version: Los novios
Los novios

The subtitles are a story in themselves. One gets the impression that they are taken from the books by Hippolyte Fortoul that are illustrated by Schlotthauer, but none of the books I have seen by Fortoul have titles for the images.

The titles are written in a style that's reminiscent of Simon Vostre's and a few of them seems to be inspired by Vostre. One example is the duchess, who for inscrutable reasons is called "la femme grosse" — the pregnant woman — just like Vostre's "la femme grosse". Or the noblewoman, who is called "l'amoureux" like Vostre's suitor. In the same manner Holbein's canon becomes an abbot, while his abbot becomes an archbishop.

The painter's wife from Basel is called "la vielleuse", which is a bit odd, partly because she's not particularly old, and partly because we've already met the old woman / "la vielle" earlier in the dance.

The black hornblower from Danse Macabre in Paris becomes "le roi more" — the moor king. He's not dressed very royally so one gets the impression that "le roi more" was inspired by the dead king in Paris, "le roy mort".

When it comes to the artists the information is a bit conflicting, but it seems Holbein's dance of death was copied by Judée, Anne, Bisson, Cottard, Dufresnoy and Dumont, while the rest of the scenes were copied by Bisson & Cottard.

But no matter what the books say, it isn't true for The escutcheon of Death. This hasn't been copied after Schlotthauer, but is the same that is included in the various books with Holbein's dance of death-alphabet, and in these books it is unequivocally stated the escutcheon has been copied by Léon le Maire. It is quite strange — especially because these books weren't published by Curmer, but Edwin Tross. Nevertheless anyone can check that Curmer's picture is identical with the one attributed to Léon le Maire published by Tross.

Resources

Frontispiece
Curmer 1858: Frontispiece
Creation
Curmer 1858: Creation
The Fall
Curmer 1858: The Fall
Expulsion
Curmer 1858: Expulsion
After the Fall
Curmer 1858: After the Fall
Bones of All Men
Curmer 1858: Bones of All Men
The Pope
Curmer 1858: The Pope
Emperor
Curmer 1858: Emperor
King
Curmer 1858: King
Cardinal
Curmer 1858: Cardinal
Empress
Curmer 1858: Empress
Queen
Curmer 1858: Queen
Bishop
Curmer 1858: Bishop
Duke
Curmer 1858: Duke
Abbot
Curmer 1858: Abbot
Abbess
Curmer 1858: Abbess
Nobleman
Curmer 1858: Nobleman
Canon
Curmer 1858: Canon
Judge
Curmer 1858: Judge
Lawyer
Curmer 1858: Lawyer
Senator
Curmer 1858: Senator
Preacher
Curmer 1858: Preacher
Priest
Curmer 1858: Priest
Monk
Curmer 1858: Monk
Nun
Curmer 1858: Nun
Old woman
Curmer 1858: Old woman
Physician
Curmer 1858: Physician
Astrologer
Curmer 1858: Astrologer
Rich man
Curmer 1858: Rich man
Merchant
Curmer 1858: Merchant
Sailor
Curmer 1858: Sailor
Knight
Curmer 1858: Knight
Count
Curmer 1858: Count
Old man
Curmer 1858: Old man
Countess
Curmer 1858: Countess
Noblewoman
Curmer 1858: Noblewoman
Duchess
Curmer 1858: Duchess
Peddler
Curmer 1858: Peddler
Peasant
Curmer 1858: Peasant
Child
Curmer 1858: Child
Judgement Day
Curmer 1858: Judgement Day
The escutcheon
Curmer 1858: The escutcheon
Soldier
Curmer 1858: Soldier
Waggoner
Curmer 1858: Waggoner
Gambler
Curmer 1858: Gambler
Robber
Curmer 1858: Robber
Blind man
Curmer 1858: Blind man
Beggar
Curmer 1858: Beggar
Drunkard
Curmer 1858: Drunkard
Fool
Curmer 1858: Fool
Child
Curmer 1858: Child
Children
Curmer 1858: Children
Children
Curmer 1858: Children
Children
Curmer 1858: Children
Cook
Curmer 1858: Cook
Blind
Curmer 1858: Blind
Painter
Curmer 1858: Painter
Mother
Curmer 1858: Mother
Sebald Beham
Curmer 1858: Sebald Beham
Sebald Beham
Curmer 1858: Sebald Beham
Merck's Wien
Curmer 1858: Merck's Wien
Moor king
Curmer 1858: Moor king
April
Curmer 1858: April

Other interpreters of Holbein's dance of death

Artists/publishers:

Hans Holbein (1526) - so-called proofs
Hans Holbein (1538) - the originals
Heinrich Aldegrever (1541)
Heinrich Vogtherr (1544)
Vincenzo Valgrisi (1545)
Arnold Birckmann (1555)
Juan de Icíar (1555)
Valentin Wagner (1557)
Georg Scharffenberg (1576)
Leonhart Straub (1581)
David Chytraeus (1590)
Peter Paul Rubens (ca. 1590)
Fabio Glissenti (1596)
Eberhard Kieser (1617)
Rudolf and Conrad Meyer (1650)
Wenceslaus Hollar (1651)
De doodt vermaskert (1654)
Thomas Neale (1657)
Johann Weichard von Valvasor (1682)
Erbaulicher Sterb-Spiegel (1704)
Salomon van Rusting (1707)
T. Nieuhoff Piccard (1720)
Christian de Mechel (1780)
David Deuchar (1788)
John Bewick (1789)
Alexander Anderson (1810)
Wenceslaus Hollar (1816)
Pseudo-Bewick (1825)
Ludwig Bechstein (1831)
Joseph Schlotthauer (1832)
Francis Douce (1833)
Carl Helmuth (1836)
Francis Douce (1858, 2. edition)
→ Henri Léon Curmer (1858) ←
Tindall Wildridge (1887)

Curmer had copied the frontispiece from Christian de Mechel.
Mechel, Frontispiece
Curmer also published copies of Simon Vostre's marginals.
d'Aligny, Pope

Footnotes: (1)

There are many allusions but the most concrete is: »Quant aux figures, j'ai donné la copie fidèle et complète de la belle Danse des Morts d'Holbeín, d'après les gravures de Hans Lutzenberger, reproduites avec un soin et une exactitude parfaite par M. J. Schlotthauer«.

Quoted from Appendice à l'imitation de Jésus-Christ in the very last chapter about la danse macabre.


Up to Holbein's great dance of death