Salomon van Rusting

Rusting, Frontispiece
The old man (detail)
Rusting, Old man

N ot much is known about Salomon van Rusting, except that he had used to be an army surgeon. He published »Het schouw-toneel des doods« (Death's theater stage) in 1707 in Amsterdam. The frontispiece (to the left) shows Death sitting on a throne: »De Doot Heerst over de Werelt« (Death rules over the World), and at the bottom a corpse is lying with the text, »Ick Rust van myn Arbeydt« (i.e. I am resting from my work). I wonder if there's a pun between "Rust", "resting" and the author's own name, "Rusting"?

Rusting was evidently interested in religion and a great part of the book and the 30 copperplates deal with Death throughout the Bible: Cadavers with long hair resembling feathers are jumping around the Tree of Wisdom, accompanying Noah's Ark with trumpets, dancing around Lot's wife in front of Sodom and Gomorrah, attacking Pharaoh and his soldiers in the Red Sea and so on. By thus placing the dance of death in a Biblical context, Rusting has anticipated Tobias Weis' »Sceptra Mortis, ein Biblischer Todtentanz« by almost two centuries.

Towards the end of the book the author arrives at his own time, and the proper dance of death starts. Many of the motifs are his own invention: The Skaters, the Miller, the Masquerade, the Tightrope-walker, but some of them are copied after Holbein.

Lot's daughter, 1707
Rusting: Lot and his daughters
Lot's daughter, 1726
Rusting: Lot and his daughters

The book was republished in 1726, 1735 and 1741; and in 1801, the 1741-edition was re-printed by Fock in Amsterdam. A curious detail is that one of Lot's daughters was topless in the 1707-edition (to the left), but more decently attired in the later editions.

Schau-Platz des Todes

In 1736 came a German edition in Nürnberg, »Schau-Platz des Todes, oder Todten-Tanz«. The thirty images are copies of Rusting's copperplates, but it is not known who executed them. The parish priest Johann Georg Meintel translated Rusting's Alexandrine verses and augmented them with verbose footnotes. Meintel also wrote a long introduction with a historical walk-through of dances of death.


Rusting 1707: Frontispiece
The Fall
Rusting 1707: The Fall
Rusting 1707: Abbot
Rusting 1707: Astrologer
Rusting 1707: Sailor
Old man
Rusting 1707: Old man
Old man
Rusting 1707: Old man
Rusting 1707: Peddler
Rusting 1707: Peasant
Rusting 1707: Child
Rusting 1707: Soldier

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)
Jiří Melantrich (1563)
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)
"Mr. 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)
Thy Grief (2022)