All men's bones
Holbein Proofs, Ossuary

All men's bones

Basel's dance of death, The ossuary.
Basel's dance of death, Ossuary
Holbein's dance of death alphabet.
Holbein Alphabet, Holbein: A

N ow the dance of death starts to the sound of drums and trumpets. It's not hard to see where Holbein has found the inspiration: His hometown Basel had two famous dances of death and both of them start in the same way. The picture to the left is from the beginning of the so-called Groß-Basel dance of death.

In Holbein's picture, as well as in Basel's dances of death, one Death beats the drum and plays the fife, while the other blows a horn. In the background an untold number of skulls are piled up.

This makes it possible to prove that Holbein's dance of death alphabet is older than his great dance of death: The alphabet follows the model (Basel's dance of death) much more closely than the great dance of death does (see picture to the right).

The dance of death in Wasserburg
Dance of death in Wasserburg's ossuary, 1837
Jakob von Wil's dance of death in Lucerne
Dance of death in Lucerne

Holbein's dance of death has also inspired the dance of death in Lucerne from ca. 1610 and the dance of death from the former ossuary in Wasserburg from 1837.

A marine trumpet sticks up Variations: The various artists follow Holbein's original rather closely. A small variant is that Birckmann adds what looks like a "marine trumpet" (see the page about the peddler for details). The interesting part is that Valvasor copies the marine trumpet on his picture.

Various Artists

Holbein Proofs (1526)
Holbein Proofs 1526: Ossuary
Holbein (1538)
Holbein 1538: Bones of All Men
Vogtherr (1544)
Vogtherr 1544: Bones of All Men
Birckmann (1555)
Birckmann 1555: Bones of All Men
Juan de Icíar (1555)
Juan de Icíar 1555: Bones of All Men
Straub (1581)
Straub 1581: Bones of All Men
Chytraeus (1590)
Chytraeus 1590: Bones of All Men
Petri Paaw (1615)
Petri Paaw 1615: Petri paaw
Kieser (1617)
Kieser 1617: Bones of All Men
Valvasor (1682)
Valvasor 1682: Bones of All Men
Bewick (1789)
Bewick 1789: Bones of All Men
Anderson (1810)
Anderson 1810: Bones of All Men
Bechstein (1831)
Bechstein 1831: Bones of All Men
Schlotthauer (1832)
Schlotthauer 1832: Bones of All Men
Douce (1833)
Douce 1833: Bones of All Men
Curmer (1858)
Curmer 1858: Bones of All Men
Magasin pittoresque (1869)
Magasin pittoresque 1869: Timbales

Up to Holbein's great dance of death