Marginal thinking: 19. Léon le Maire

Simon Vostre
Leon le Maire, Border
Accidens de L'homme
Leon le Maire, Border

This section is about two series of images, adorning the margins of medieval books of hours. The one is Simon Vostre's dance of death, the other is Accidens de l'Homme.

In 1856 a book was published with Heinrich Lödel's copies of Hans Holbein's dance of death alphabet in France, Italy and England. I quote from the English preface, which explains how these initials are accompanied by reproductions of those two dances of death:

Our new edition gives the same letters, real gems of engraving on wood, but, as a worthy illustration, accompanies them with the two Dances of Death, the one more Gothic in form, the other more coarsely engraved, but yet perhaps more artistical, which are found in the well known Simon Vostre's Horæ. These two Dances, as well as the ornamental borders, all taken from different books, are engraved with a fidelity and elegance on which our readers may pronounce, by Mr Leon Le Maire, of Paris, who has also copied on the title Holbein's Escutcheon of Death from the Imagines Mortis.

The celebrated Hans Holbein's alphabet of death, illustr. with old borders engraved on wood, by A. de Montaiglon, 1856

So the person who reproduced these two dances of death (but not Holbein's initials) was named Léon Le Maire, and he has also made a copy of Holbein's Escutcheon of Death.(1)

Simon Vostre
Leon le Maire, Border
Accidens de l'Homme
Leon le Maire, Border

Nothing can be said against the craftsmanship, which is impeccable, but Mr le Maire won't get many accolades for the historic quality. The pictures are brought out of context, without dialogue and subtitles, and can only be described as ornamental.

Out of Simon Vostre's 66 dancers, le Maire has copied 24. He has presumably chosen the 24 that he considered most interesting, but this means that when you see them three by three (see the two examples to the left), what you see is a modern pastiche. It is le Maire (or rather: his publisher), who has chosen to combine them in this manner. Each scene is on a separate block, and the combination of persons and dividing lines (if any) varies from page to page and between the various editions.

Take the example to the top left: The pope is followed by the young girl and the physician. First of all, Simon Vostre (and the Danse Macabre he copied) separated the 30 men (from the original mural) from the 36 women (who were invented later). Secondly, the participants appeared in order of rank, which means that there was a great gulf between the world's mightiest mortal, the pope, and the young girl and the physician. Thirdly, the participants alternated (especially in the start of the dance) between ecclesiastical and lay persons, and it's hard to see what the young girl is doing here.

With respect to Accidens de l'Homme (or maybe it's Las Horas — it's impossible to tell without dialogue) there are also 24. This means that le Maire has copied the entire series (except for the final Judgment Day and author). The English version includes the king twice but is lacking no. 20.

Leon le Maire has also chosen to bring these images three by three, even though they were originally published with only two per column. This is probably because the images don't take up so much space without the texts.

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Further information

Pictures by Léon le Maire

Border
Leon le Maire 1856: Border
Border
Leon le Maire 1856: Border
Border
Leon le Maire 1856: Border
Border
Leon le Maire 1856: Border
Pope
Leon le Maire 1856: Pope
Emperor
Leon le Maire 1856: Emperor
Constable
Leon le Maire 1856: Constable
Nobleman
Leon le Maire 1856: Nobleman
Astrologer
Leon le Maire 1856: Astrologer
Citizen
Leon le Maire 1856: Citizen
Sergeant
Leon le Maire 1856: Sergeant
Usurer
Leon le Maire 1856: Usurer
Physician
Leon le Maire 1856: Physician
Minstrel
Leon le Maire 1856: Minstrel
Peasant
Leon le Maire 1856: Peasant
Child
Leon le Maire 1856: Child
The queen
Leon le Maire 1856: The queen
Widow
Leon le Maire 1856: Widow
Bailiff's wife
Leon le Maire 1856: Bailiff's wife
Bride
Leon le Maire 1856: Bride
Young girl
Leon le Maire 1856: Young girl
Shepherdess
Leon le Maire 1856: Shepherdess
Crutches
Leon le Maire 1856: Crutches
Village woman
Leon le Maire 1856: Village woman
Resales woman
Leon le Maire 1856: Resales woman
Suitoress
Leon le Maire 1856: Suitoress
Witch
Leon le Maire 1856: Witch
Fool
Leon le Maire 1856: Fool
Death
Leon le Maire 1856: Death
Adam & Eve
Leon le Maire 1856: Adam & Eve
Cain & Abel
Leon le Maire 1856: Cain & Abel
Cardinal
Leon le Maire 1856: Cardinal
Bull
Leon le Maire 1856: Bull
Usurer
Leon le Maire 1856: Usurer
Unarmed
Leon le Maire 1856: Unarmed
Sheath
Leon le Maire 1856: Sheath
Scythe
Leon le Maire 1856: Scythe
Soldiers
Leon le Maire 1856: Soldiers
Woman
Leon le Maire 1856: Woman
Tower
Leon le Maire 1856: Tower
Strangling
Leon le Maire 1856: Strangling
Gallow
Leon le Maire 1856: Gallow
Beheading
Leon le Maire 1856: Beheading
King
Leon le Maire 1856: King
Battle-axe
Leon le Maire 1856: Battle-axe
Bed
Leon le Maire 1856: Bed
Child
Leon le Maire 1856: Child
Fallen
Leon le Maire 1856: Fallen
Crowd
Leon le Maire 1856: Crowd
Meal
Leon le Maire 1856: Meal
Minstrel
Leon le Maire 1856: Minstrel
Hermit
Leon le Maire 1856: Hermit
Escutcheon
Leon le Maire 1856: Escutcheon

External links

Footnotes: (1)

This copy of the Escutcheon of Death is rather perplexing, because among the copies of Holbein's dance of death published by Léon Curmer, there is an image, which is completely identical until the smallest detail.

For comparison:
Léon le Maire
Curmer

But Léon le Maire is not on the list of artists, who have contributed to Curmer's books, and these books about dance of death alphabets were published by Edwin Tross, not Curmer.


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