Lübeck's Dance of Death

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.

Milde, 1. partMilde, 2. partMilde, 3. partMilde, 4.  partMilde, 5.  partMilde, 6. partMilde, 7.  partMilde, 8.  part

Milde's coloured lithographs from 1866 are the most lavish depiction of the dance of death one can get. 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 portrayed by C. J. Milde

Milde, Lübeck seen from the northLübeck seen from the north - the church with two steeples is St. Mary's. (before 1847)

Milde, Lübeck, HolstentorHolstentor / Holstein's Gate (before 1853)

Milde, Lübeck, The outer HolstentorThe outer Holstentor. The church to the left is St. Mary's. (1850)

Milde, Lübeck, TowerTower at the northern gate (after 1850)

Milde, Lübeck, Town wallThe town wall along the Wakenitz River was taken down 1853-57 (1838)

Milde, Lübeck, St. Mary's churchSt. Mary's church seen from "Schrangen" (the little court between the 2 Karstadt's) (1847)

Milde, Lübeck, KatharinenkircheKatharinenkirche (ca. 1850)

Milde, Lübeck, GlandorphshofGlandorphshof (1847)

Milde, Lübeck, St. AnnenklosterFire of St. Annenkloster (lithograph, 1843)

Milde, Lübeck, Haus GaedertzPen drawing of Haus Gaedertz, Königstraße 59 (1864)

Milde, Lübeck, KatharineumKatharineum. Etching from the Lübecker ABC (1856)

Sources

Footnotes: (1)

This director was Christoph Adolph Nölting, who was also merchant, Swedish consul and the father-in-law of Wilhelm Mantels.

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