The Nun

© The Trustees of the British Museum
Mouse over to remove letter Copyleft JMJ
Klein-Basel, Abbess
Klein-Basel: Abbess
Mouse over for animation Copyleft by JMJ

Death is disguised as a monk and the nun follows quietly along — in contrast to the monk (letter O).

There was nothing new in the thought that good people did not fear Death - who was simply a messenger from God. Holbein might have looked at the dance of death in Klingental (picture to the left) in his own hometown Basel or he might have had a copy of Heidelberg's dance of death from 1465 (picture below to the right).

Heidelberger block book, the nun follows Death smilingly.
Heidelberger block book

The accompanying text for this letter goes: »Eyn weg ist der dem menschen würd gesehen gerecht / aber syne letzten füren in zu dem todt«.

This is from The Book of Proverbs 14:12, which in Luther's version sounds: »Manchem scheint ein Weg recht; aber zuletzt bringt er ihn zum Tode«. In English: »There is a way which seemeth right unto a man, but the end thereof are the ways of death«.

Various artists

Holbein Alphabet (1524)
Holbein Alphabet 1524: Holbein: Q
Wolfgang Köpphel (1526)
Wolfgang Köpphel 1526: Köpfel: Q
Polydori Vergilii (1532)
Polydori Vergilii 1532: Polydori: Q
Hans Schott (1536)
Hans Schott 1536: Schott: Q
Hans Schott (1536)
Hans Schott 1536: Schott: Q
Froschauer (1544)
Froschauer 1544: Nun
Froschauer (1546)
Froschauer 1546: Canonicae Scripturae: Q
Heinrich Lödel (1849)
Heinrich Lödel 1849: Lödel: Q
Douce Alphabet (1858)
Douce Alphabet 1858: Douce: Q

Up to Holbein's Dance of Death Alphabet