dam earns his bread in the sweat of his face. Eve suckles Cain in the background while holding a distaff. This is an allusion to the famous saying, "When Adam delved and Eve span, Who was then the gentleman?"
The picture of Adam delving and Eve spinning, had been used for centuries. The picture to the left is from ca. 1450, and you can see the same motif on frescoes in Danish churches like Ottestrup and Tågerup.
The phrase comes from a sermon by John Ball in 1381 in connection with a peasant rebellion in England. Thus, the motif is also an allusion to the recent German peasants' war 1524 - 1525.
On Holbein's picture, Death is actively helping Adam with the hard work. Maybe it's meant to signify that Death is now a constant follower of man — or maybe it's because Death is always to be found at the side of the poor and downtrodden. See also the duke, the count, the judge and the peasant.
Holbein also produced a series of illustrations for The Old Testament. under the name Historiarum veteris instrumenti Icones ad vivum expressae. The publishers included the first four pictures from the dance of death: Creation, Temptation and Fall, the Expulsion from Paradise and Life After the Fall. The picture to the right is from a 1547 edition; on the right part of the picture is Noah's Ark.
Variations: Aldegrever, as he is wont to, makes a free interpretation,
and Eberhard Kieser copies Aldegrever.
Birckmann has added broken branches in the foreground and trees in the background. Hollar and Deuchar copy Birckmann.