The Physician

Holbein Proofs, Physician

D Dance of death alphabet, The Physician eath takes a skinny, old man to the physician and hands over a urine glass as a sort of challenge.

The idea, with Death using a specimen of urine as a challenge, is one that Holbein copied from his dance of death alphabet. Presumably Holbein found the original inspiration in Bern's dance of death. See Initial M for details.

Popular anatomy anno 1538
Holbein, detail
I t is deeply ironic the picture of the physician is the very picture where Holbein makes the gravest mistake: Death has two bones in the upper arm and only one in the forearm. That's how ignorant people were in the late Middle ages concerning anatomy. It would still take a few years before Andreas Vesalius published De Corporis Fabrica in 1543 — and it would take many years before basic anatomy became common knowledge. Funny enough, Vesalius published his books in Basel, the same town where Holbein produced his woodcuts.

A hundred years later, Hollar made a similar error: The Death that attacks the soldier has two thighbones.

Variations: Birckmann lets the shelf continue on the next wall. The last book is decorated with a large X; under the shelf there's a string holding prescriptions; the bricks that form an arc over the door are removed; the door is ajar; the simple table leg becomes a winged, fabulous monster. Hollar and Deuchar copy Birckmann.
Scharffenberg makes a very free interpretation.
Anderson distinctly corrects the error in upper arm and forearm — but then again: Anderson was a doctor.

Various Artists

Holbein Proofs (1526)
Holbein Proofs 1526: Physician
Holbein (1538)
Holbein 1538: Physician
Vogtherr (1544)
Vogtherr 1544: Physician
Birckmann (1555)
Birckmann 1555: Physician
Juan de Icíar (1555)
Juan de Icíar 1555: Physician
Scharffenberg (1576)
Scharffenberg 1576: Physician
Straub (1581)
Straub 1581: Physician
Chytraeus (1590)
Chytraeus 1590: Physician
Glissenti (1596)
Glissenti 1596: Physician
Donaueschingen (1600)
Donaueschingen 1600: Physician
Kieser (1617)
Kieser 1617: Physician
Hollar (1651)
Hollar 1651: Physician
Doodt Vermaskert (1654)
Doodt Vermaskert 1654: Physician
Thomas Neale (1657)
Thomas Neale 1657: Physician
Manni (1675)
Manni 1675: Physician
Valvasor (1682)
Valvasor 1682: Physician
Mechel (1780)
Mechel 1780: Physician
Deuchar (1788)
Deuchar 1788: Physician
Bewick (1789)
Bewick 1789: Physician
Anderson (1810)
Anderson 1810: Physician
Hollar (colour) (1816)
Hollar (colour) 1816: Physician
'Mr. Bewick' (1825)
'Mr. Bewick' 1825: Physician
Bechstein (1831)
Bechstein 1831: Physician
Schlotthauer (1832)
Schlotthauer 1832: Physician
Douce (1833)
Douce 1833: Physician
Curmer (1858)
Curmer 1858: Physician
Wildridge (1887)
Wildridge 1887: Physician