The Sailor
Holbein Proofs, Sailor

The Sailor

Pharao and his soldiers drown in the curly waves
Holbein: Pharao and his soldiers drown in the sea

T his picture in particular shows clearly, how Holbein deviates from the earlier monumental dances of death.

First of all, the action takes place on the open sea — far away from the other "dancers" — as opposed to the dances in Lübeck, Berlin, Paris, London and Tallinn, that are chain dances.

Second, Death is no longer a messenger who simply announces the case of death. Death is an active player, who breaks the mast and thus causes the death of the sailors.

The peculiar way of showing convoluted and curly waves is typical of Holbein. We see the same waves in his illustration of Exodus 14-15 (to the right). Holbein does the same thing with smoke.

Variations: In Birckmann's picture, a man jumps overboard onto some sort of raft, where Death has placed his hourglass. Valvasor and Deuchar copy Birckmann.

Various Artists

Holbein Proofs (1526)
Holbein Proofs 1526: Sailor
Holbein (1538)
Holbein 1538: Sailor
Vogtherr (1544)
Vogtherr 1544: Sailor
Birckmann (1555)
Birckmann 1555: Sailor
Scharffenberg (1576)
Scharffenberg 1576: Sailor
Straub (1581)
Straub 1581: Sailor
Chytraeus (1590)
Chytraeus 1590: Sailor
Glissenti (1596)
Glissenti 1596: Sailor
Kieser (1617)
Kieser 1617: Sailor
Doodt Vermaskert (1654)
Doodt Vermaskert 1654: Sailor
Valvasor (1682)
Valvasor 1682: Sailor
Rusting (1707)
Rusting 1707: Sailor
Mechel (1780)
Mechel 1780: Sailor
Deuchar (1788)
Deuchar 1788: Sailor
Bewick (1789)
Bewick 1789: Sailor
Anderson (1810)
Anderson 1810: Sailor
Pseudo-Bewick (1825)
Pseudo-Bewick 1825: Sailor
Bechstein (1831)
Bechstein 1831: Sailor
Schlotthauer (1832)
Schlotthauer 1832: Sailor
Douce (1833)
Douce 1833: Sailor
Curmer (1858)
Curmer 1858: Sailor

Up to Holbein's great dance of death