The Nun

© The Trustees of the British Museum
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Klein-Basel, Abbess
Klein-Basel: Abbess
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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 block book 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