s early as in 1544, Heinrich Vogtherr the Elder (1490-1556) published his copy of Holbein's dance of death in Augsburg. This makes his dance of death the first German Holbein-clone, (unless you include Aldegrever's 8 pictures). Vogtherr's dance of death is a rather close copy of Holbein's work, except that the images are laterally reversed and bigger.
Vogtherr follows the old printed sheets, which explains the German titles. For the same reason he leaves out the astrologer and (naturally) the pictures that were only added to the dance in the later editions from 1545-1562. On the other hand, two new scenes are added: The adulterer and the crucifixion (picture to the right).
The sequence is the same as in the printed sheets and departs from Simulachres & Historiées. First comes the scenes from The Old Testament, then ecclesiastics (including the physician), secular men, and women ending with mother and child. In fact the sequence is exactly the same as the so-called printer's proofs in Berlin's Kupferstichkabinett except that the lawyer — rather illogically — comes before the judge.
The sequence is: Erschaffung des Menschen, Einführung ins paradeyß, Austreybung Adams, Fluch des Menschen, Der Pabst, Der Cardinal, Der Bischoff, Der Thumbherr, Der Abt, Der Pfarrer, Der Predicant, Der Münch, Der Artzet Der Kayser, Der Künig, Der Hertzog, Der Graff Der Ritter, Der Edelman, Der Rathsherr, Der Fürsprech, Der Richter, Der Reychmann, Der Kawffmann, Der Kramer, Der Schiffmann, Der Eebrecher, Der Ackermann, Der Alltmann, Die Kayserin, Die Künigin, Die Hertzogin, Die Gräffin, Die Edelfraw, Die Abtissin, Die Nunn, Das Allt weib, Das Jung kind, Die Gepain aller Menschen, Das Crucifix, Das Jüngst gericht and Das wappen des Todts
The books ends with the signature: »Gedruckt inn der Kaiserlichen Reychstatt Augspurg/ durch Jobst Denecker Formschneyder«. The publisher — Jobst Denecker — here points out that he himself used to work as a block-cutter.
Jobst Denecker (1485-1544, also called Jost de Necker / Negker / Nekker / Dienecker) was a splendid artist in his own right, who is credited with the invention of multi-colour prints and the chiaroscuro-technique. In his older years he branched out as a publisher. Many commentators want to affix Denecker's name to this book, but it's hard to see what role he's supposed to have played: The motifs were already designed by Holbein, and we know that Vogtherr cut the blocks, because he added his mark:
Vogtherr removed Hans Lützelburger's woodcutter's mark: a conjoined H and L in the lower, left corner of the duchess' bed. (see picture to the left). Instead Vogtherr replaced Lützelburger's mark with the year 1542 (picture to the right).
Vogtherr then added his own mark — a laterally reversed HVE (Heinrich Vogtherr Elterer) — in the lower right corner of the advocate. Click here for a super-sized image of Vogtherr's advocate.
The book starts with a discussion between Death and man, and each picture has a dialogue (in German) between Death and the dying, just as there is in all the "proper" dances of death. This text was included by Carl Helmuth in his copy of Vogtherr's woodcuts and likewise in the copy published by Leonhard Straub in St. Gallen in 1581.
In the woodcut of the pope, a devil comes flying with a letter of indulgence. In Holbein's version this letter is adorned with a pseudo-inscription, but in the 1544-edition Vogtherr replaced it with a legible text (picture to the left): "ve tibi corona Superbia mea"; "Woe unto thee the crown of my pride" This sounds like a variation of Isaiah 28:1 "vae coronae superbiae" ("Woe to the crown of pride").
In the next edition, which is from ca. 1548, the letter of indulgence is gone and so are the flying devil and the devil climbing the canopy (picture to the right).
An even more radical change was made to the scene with the adulterer. This person does not appear in Holbein's dance, but Vogtherr had invented a rather unpleasant scene with Death holding the woman fast by her hair while helping the cuckolded husband to pierce the adulterous couple (picture to the left). The picture caused outrage at the time and only appeared in the 1544-edition. In some of the existing copies it has been destroyed.(1)
In the later editions it was replaced by more tranquil scene: The same bed and the same room, but the couple are sitting together in the bed while Death holds up a mirror and hourglass (picture to the right).
In this new scene, the woodcutter has added his mark at the bottom of the bed: A conjoined JD, short for Jobst Denecker (picture to the right).
The book was published in at least three versions by Jobst Denecker, and later on his son, David, published at least two versions.
In 1581 the book was copied by Leonhart Straub.
Here are the 40 prints arranged in the same sequence as in Imagines Mortis:
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)
Ludwig Bechstein (1831)
Joseph Schlotthauer (1832)
Francis Douce (1833)
Carl Helmuth (1836)
Francis Douce (1858, 2. edition)
Henri Léon Curmer (1858)
Tindall Wildridge (1887)
Massmann also confirms that the scene wan't popular:
»Ein grässlich Bild, nicht Holbeinisch, und - von der Zeit wahrscheinlich getadelt«
(Kunst-Blatt no. 76, 22. September 1831, page 302).