Carl Julius Milde (1803-1875)
Milde was born in Hamburg 16/2 1803. After being educated as a painter - and after long travels
in Europe (often on foot) - he settled in Lübeck in 1838 until his death 19/11 1875.
It's hard to imagine anybody more eminently qualified for
depicting Lübeck's dance of death. First of all Milde had specialised as a conservator and
restorer of medieval artwork. Besides,
Milde lived with the family of one of the directors of the church of St. Mary(1), so he contributed to most
of the works in the church through 50 years.
Secondly, Milde had a great interest in anatomy. Earlier he had illustrated medical books
with corpses, body parts, bones, muscles and joints. Milde was superintendent of the natural history
museum of Lübeck and more or less the only person employed, so for 30 years he did most of
the work - cataloguing, conserving and dissecting different animals
- including a gorilla!
Milde knew Lübeck's dance of death intimately since he himself
had restored the painting in 1852.
The church records don't show any further repairs for the next 90 years, so apparently Milde
was the last person ever to restore the dance of death.
The story behind the lithographs are as follows:
- After having restored the painting in 1852, Milde made a drawing in water-colours, which is said to have surpassed all other reproductions.
Sadly this drawing disappeared during the 2nd World War.
Milde's drawing was then reproduced as 8 lithographs by Wilhelm Schimmelbusch.
These eight BLACK AND WHITE lithographs were published by
Mantels in 1866 in the book Der Todtentanz in der Marienkirche zu Lübeck.
- The porcelain painter J. H . Richter took one exemplar of this book and coloured the 8 pages.
According to a pencil note at the beginning of the book, Richter had followed the colours in Milde's drawing.
- This coloured exemplar (i.e. Mantels' entire book with library stamps, pencil notes and all)
was reproduced by Dr. Hartmut Freytag in 1989, with an extensive post-script by Freytag and is now in its third edition.
- Today Mantel's book (without Freytag's post-script) can be downloaded from the Internet (see external link).
Milde's lithographs are the most lavish depiction of the dance of death one can get.
In fact, book printers preferred to publish photographs of the lithographs rather that photographs of the original painting
in the Marienkirche.
Each plate is 18 cm high and from 30 to 41 cm wide.
The duke does not appear since he disappeared in 1799. Click the little pictures to enlarge.
Lübeck seen from the north - the church with two steeples is St. Mary's. (before 1847)
Holstentor / Holstein's Gate (before 1853)
The outer Holstentor. The church to the left is St. Mary's. (1850)
Tower at the northern gate (after 1850)
The town wall along the Wakenitz River was taken down 1853-57 (1838)
St. Mary's church seen from "Schrangen" (the little court between the 2 Karstadt's) (1847)
Katharinenkirche (ca. 1850)
Fire of St. Annenkloster (lithograph, 1843)
Pen drawing of Haus Gaedertz, Königstraße 59 (1864)
Katharineum. Etching from the Lübecker ABC (1856)
- Milde's lithographs were published by his friend, Wilhelm Mantels, in the book
Der Todtentanz in der Marienkirche zu Lübeck
- The pictures of Lübeck are taken from Gustav Lindtke's "Die stadt der Buddenbrooks", published in Lübeck 1965
- Allgemeine Deutsche Biographie, 1885 (vol. 21, 737-741)
- Biographisches Lexikon für Schleswig-Holstein und Lübeck, 1991 (vol. 7, 140-143)
- Deutsche Biographische Enzyklopädie (vol. 7, 139)
This director was Christoph Adolph Nölting, who was also merchant, Swedish consul
and the father-in-law of Wilhelm Mantels