The Abbess

Holbein Proofs, Abbess
The World's oldest tarot deck: The Fool
Tarot card: The Fool
Holbein: The Fool (Psalm 53,2)
Holbein's Bible illiustrations

D eath drags the abbess away, while she holds on to her rosary and her abbess-staff. Inside the monastery, one of the nuns are screaming.

Some commentators think, Death is draped with flags! Personally I believe they are long feathers. It's rather normal that fools have long feathers in their heads. See the tarot card to the left from the world's oldest tarot deck, Visconti-Sforza — or see the picture that Holbein made for The Old Testament (to the right).

Death is dressed like a fool — just like the Death that drags the queen away.

Portrait of Holbein by Hendrik Hondius.
Hendrik Hondius
Copy attributed to Simon Frisius

On the portrait of Holbein made by Hondius, the abbess appears in the background.

The same thing is true for the copy to the right.

Variations: Birckmann adds a window, which is partially hidden behind Death's head. Hollar og Deuchar copy the window.

Various Artists

Holbein Proofs (1526)
Holbein Proofs 1526: Abbess
Holbein (1538)
Holbein 1538: Abbess
Vogtherr (1544)
Vogtherr 1544: Abbess
Birckmann (1555)
Birckmann 1555: Abbess
Juan de Icíar (1555)
Juan de Icíar 1555: Abbess
Scharffenberg (1576)
Scharffenberg 1576: Abbess
Straub (1581)
Straub 1581: Abbess
Chytraeus (1590)
Chytraeus 1590: Abbess
Glissenti (1596)
Glissenti 1596: Abbess
Donaueschingen (1600)
Donaueschingen 1600: Nun
Kieser (1617)
Kieser 1617: Abbess
Meyer (1650)
Meyer 1650: Abbess
Hollar (1651)
Hollar 1651: Abbess
Doodt Vermaskert (1654)
Doodt Vermaskert 1654: Abbess
Thomas Neale (1657)
Thomas Neale 1657: Abbess
Valvasor (1682)
Valvasor 1682: Abbess
Doodt Vermaskert (1698)
Doodt Vermaskert 1698: Abbess
Mechel (1780)
Mechel 1780: Abbess
Deuchar (1788)
Deuchar 1788: Abbess
Bewick (1789)
Bewick 1789: Abbess
Anderson (1810)
Anderson 1810: Abbess
'Mr. Bewick' (1825)
'Mr. Bewick' 1825: Abbess
Bechstein (1831)
Bechstein 1831: Abbess
Schlotthauer (1832)
Schlotthauer 1832: Abbess
Douce (1833)
Douce 1833: Abbess
Curmer (1858)
Curmer 1858: Abbess
Wildridge (1887)
Wildridge 1887: Abbess
Deuchar (1887)
Deuchar 1887: Abbess