Marginal thinking: Morgan 359

The pope carries his own coffin.
m.359, Pope

Most of this book is in The Morgan Library in New York, but it was made in Paris, where there still are 90 leaves at the Bibliotheque de l'Institut de France under the name of Ms 547.

The book is from 1430-1435, so it is only 5-10 years younger than the dance at the Parisian cemetery wall, but 30 years older than the dance in Lübeck.

The dance consists of 57 scenes — a little more, if you count the funeral and mass for the dead at the beginning — and there are no women. Thus, the dance is almost twice as long as La Danse Macabre and probably the longest dance of them all.

The pictures (also on the pages outside the dance of death) are placed inside round "medallions". A few of these are only semicircles, with no apparent system, except that there is usually room for two Deaths per living in the whole circles.

In this way, most of the living have a Death on each side, just like in a chain dance. In la Danse Macabre, the sergeant, says that he cannot escape because he is seized from both sides: "Ie suis pris deca et dela". Already Emile Mâle pointed out that this is not the case in the picture where the sergeant is only seized from one side.(1) By contrast, most dancers in this manuscript are "grabbed from both sides", so maybe these pictures are closer to the original mural than the printed books published by Guy Marchant 50 years later?(2)

The dance starts with a preacher, and initially follows the same sequence as la Danse Macabre. First comes the Pope. Usually Death carries the coffin on his shoulder, while pulling off the pope, but in this case the pope must carry his own coffin, even though there are two Deaths.

There is no text and this, combined with the large number of scenes, makes it difficult to identify the characters. The museum's curators count five abbots (from different orders), eleven monks besides some "brothers", and in many cases they give up on identifying the worldly figures, but just write a "man".

Ms. Morgan 359

m.359 1430: Pope
m.359 1430: Magistrate
Knight templar
m.359 1430: Knight templar
m.359 1430: Knight
m.359 1430: Abbot
m.359 1430: Knight
m.359 1430: Abbot
m.359 1430: Person
m.359 1430: Alexian
m.359 1430: Merchant
m.359 1430: Apothecary
m.359 1430: Money-changer
m.359 1430: Monk
m.359 1430: Goldsmith
m.359 1430: Carthusian
m.359 1430: Blacksmith
m.359 1430: Jeweler


The next book contains an almost complete series of the men.

Go forth

The next chapter in this series is about Lewis E 113

The previous subject was Rothschild 2535.

External links

Footnotes: (1) (2)

Emile Mâle, L'art religieux de la fin du moyen âge en France, 1908, page 364: »D'autre part, je remarque qu'une des gravures ne correspond pas exactement au texte qui l'accompagne. Dans Guyot Marchant le sergent d'armes est entraîné par un seul mort (fig. 203), tandis qu'au cimetière des Innocents il était certainement pris entre deux cadavres ; le texte est formel : Je suis pris de çà et de là, dit le sergent«.

This observation was made by Sophie Oosterwijk. See the external link.