David Deuchar

Deuchar copied Mechel's frontispiece
Deuchar, Frontispiece

D avid Deuchar (1743-1808) had his dance of death published first time in London 1788 (the frontispiece says 1786).

Deuchar shamelessly copied the frontispiece from Mechel by simply replacing Mechel's name with his own. On the copied frontispiece Deuchar kept the claim that the work was based on the original drawings by Holbein: »Gravé d'apres les Dessins originaux de Jean Holbein«. This claim was suspect already when Mechel made it, since the so-called original Holbein-drawings have later been shown to the work of the young Peter Rubens. But in Deuchar's case the claim becomes absurd, since nothing indicates that Deuchar has ever looked at anything by Holbein.

The dance from Holbein's dagger scabbard
Deuchar, Scabbard

Deuchar also copied the French descriptions of each plate and added an English translation. Mechel's book had contained 46 plates (excluding the frontispiece, and including the scabbard), and this number was repeated in Deuchar's title: »The dances of death, through the various stages of human life: wherein the capriciousness of that tyrant is exhibited: in the forty-six copper-plates«;

So bottom line is that Deuchar was very dependent on Mechel: He could only bring the same 46 dancers that Mechel had published — and in the same sequence and with the same comments. In some editions Deuchar has added Death's Escutcheon and his very own version of The Creation, but these plates are featured outside the dance and without letter-press. Deuchar also copied Holbein's dagger scabbard, which isn't included in neither Holbein's Simulaches or by any other artist than Mechel (although it's hard to see that it's a scabbard, picture to the right).

Give this dependency, one would assume that the plates for the dance of death were copied from Mechel as well, but this is not the case. Apart from the frontispiece and the dagger Deuchar hasn't copied anything from neither Mechel nor Holbein.

Deuchar, Hollar and Birckmann

The castle behind the Empress is far more decorated with Hollar and Deuchar.
Deuchar, Empress

D avid Deuchar has first and foremost copied Hollar, and he didn't content himself with copying Hollar's 30 plates — he also copied the frames from Hollar's book. These 3 frames depict Democritus and Heraclitus, Minerva and Hercules and Time and Eternity. Deuchar added a fourth frame in the same style with a gravedigger and Death (click the links and then the images to see the frames).

Hollar's plates were much inspired by Arnold Birckmann's interpretation of Holbein's work. How can one determine then, whether Deuchar has copied Hollar's copies of Holbein and Birckmann — instead of copying Holbein and Birckmann directly? The easiest way of proving this, is to note that Deuchar has chosen the exact same variants that Hollar had chosen.

In 20 of the 30 pictures, Hollar choses to follow Birckmann instead of Holbein, in 9 cases Hollar prefers Holbein to Birckmann and in a single case he combines elements from them both (see the page about Hollar for details). Every time without fail, Deuchar chooses to follow Hollar. The only exceptions are those where Deuchar follows neither Holbein nor Hollar, but adds some details of his own, for instance when he gives Death behind the preacher a little bone in his hand.

Deuchar misses the hourglass in front of the preacher because Hollar's hourglass was indistinct.
Deuchar, Preacher

Two more examples will show, how Deuchar copies Hollar instead of copying Holbein and Birckmann.

But what is really strange, is that Deuchar has 17 copperplates more than Hollar has, and when one looks at these 17 plates (which couldn't be copied from Hollar), then it looks as if Deuchar is even more Birckmann-o-phile than Hollar was:

Deuchar copies Birckmann's pictures of king duke, canon, judge, senator, priest, astronomer, sailor, knight, duchess, peasant, beggar, drunkard, fool and presumably also the blind man. The Creation is Deuchar's own design. The robber is the same with Holbein and Birckmann (so it's hard to say whether Deuchar has copied Holbein or Birckmann).

There's not in any of Deuchar's 17 additions any hint that he has as much as looked at Holbein. Deuchar has copied 30 pictures from Hollar and 17 pictures from Birckmann. There is no indication that Deuchar has ever seen any of Holbein's original woodcuts. Deuchar has copied Hollar's copies of Birckmann's copies of Holbein.

This is deeply ironic, since Holbein is the only artist mentioned anywhere in Deuchar's book. Neither Mechel, Hollar, Diepenbeeck nor Birckmann are being credited anywhere.

"HB i       DD f"
Deuchar's signature
"David Deuchar fecit"
Deuchar's signatur

Deuchar's plates are signed HB i for "Holbein invenit" and DD f for "David Deuchar fecit" (i.e.: Holbein has invented the design, Deuchar has executed it). At the bottom of the frames it says "David Deuchar fecit".

All in all, Deuchar has 47 of Holbein's woodcuts — only 4 images are lacking: All men's bones, The Last Judgment, Young Woman and Young man. After going through countless reprints, Deuchar's copperplates were published as lithographic reproductions where all details were lost.

Links & Resources

Deuchar 1788: Frontispiece
Deuchar 1788: Creation
The Fall
Deuchar 1788: The Fall
Deuchar 1788: Expulsion
After the Fall
Deuchar 1788: After the Fall
The Pope
Deuchar 1788: The Pope
Deuchar 1788: Emperor
Deuchar 1788: King
Deuchar 1788: Cardinal
Deuchar 1788: Empress
Deuchar 1788: Queen
Deuchar 1788: Bishop
Deuchar 1788: Duke
Deuchar 1788: Abbot
Deuchar 1788: Abbess
Deuchar 1788: Nobleman
Deuchar 1788: Canon
Deuchar 1788: Judge
Deuchar 1788: Lawyer
Deuchar 1788: Senator
Deuchar 1788: Preacher
Deuchar 1788: Priest
Deuchar 1788: Monk
Deuchar 1788: Nun
Old woman
Deuchar 1788: Old woman
Deuchar 1788: Physician
Deuchar 1788: Astrologer
Rich man
Deuchar 1788: Rich man
Deuchar 1788: Merchant
Deuchar 1788: Sailor
Deuchar 1788: Knight
Deuchar 1788: Count
Old man
Deuchar 1788: Old man
Deuchar 1788: Countess
Deuchar 1788: Noblewoman
Deuchar 1788: Duchess
Deuchar 1788: Peddler
Deuchar 1788: Peasant
Deuchar 1788: Child
The escutcheon
Deuchar 1788: The escutcheon
Deuchar 1788: Soldier
Deuchar 1788: Waggoner
Deuchar 1788: Gambler
Deuchar 1788: Robber
Blind man
Deuchar 1788: Blind man
Deuchar 1788: Beggar
Deuchar 1788: Drunkard
Deuchar 1788: Fool
Deuchar 1788: Scabbard

Other interpreters of Holbein's dance of death


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)
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)

Up to Holbein's great dance of death