Lübeck's Dance of Death

Carl Julius Milde

Marienkirche by Milde
Milde, Milde

Milde was born in Hamburg in 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 in 1875.

It's hard to imagine anybody more eminently qualified for depicting Lübeck's dance of death. First of all Milde had specialized 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
Click the thumbnails to enlarge.

The story behind the lithographs are as follows:

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.

Sources

Milde #1
Carl Julius Milde 1866: Milde #1
Milde #2
Carl Julius Milde 1866: Milde #2
Milde #3
Carl Julius Milde 1866: Milde #3
Milde #4
Carl Julius Milde 1866: Milde #4
Milde #5
Carl Julius Milde 1866: Milde #5
Milde #6
Carl Julius Milde 1866: Milde #6
Milde #7
Carl Julius Milde 1866: Milde #7
Milde #8
Carl Julius Milde 1866: Milde #8

Footnotes: (1)

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