The National Museum's dance of death

The National Museum
National museum

Old man
Young woman
Mother and child

I've had this website since at least 2001, and I have lost count of how many times I've visited Lübeck, Berlin and Malmø.

Still, over 20 years passed before I came across this painting, which is located at the National Museum in Copenhagen, barely a kilometer from where I live. This has something to do with the fact that the painting is quite unknown — at least in its entirety. The museum has also informed me that it is not on display and that the museum is currently closed for study visits.

Fortunately they have sent me two registration cards with details. The painting is smaller than you would think, only 1.01 m × 1.30 m. It was "in due time bought in Aabenraa in Copenhagen", which is a somewhat mysterious formulation. There is a narrow street with the unusual name, Aabenraa, in Copenhagen, but why not write the name of the seller instead of the street?

The painting is from "c. 1700", which the museum probably bases on the clothing. As we shall see, the source used by the artist for the lyrics is from 1710.

The museum has uploaded an excellent photo (see external link). Although the photo is detailed, it can sometimes be difficult to tell the difference between letters and cracks in the varnish, but with the help of the museum's registration card most things can be deciphered.

The lyrics are — with a single exception — in German, and they are taken from the emblem book "Besonders meublirt- und gezierte Todten-Capelle" from 1710.

Far right in the picture is a board with a text in Danish: "Det Hielper ey at sige Ney, Med Døden maa vi wandre […]".

Let's take the scenes one at a time. The first one is the pope.

Gå fremad

The dance starts with the pope.

Further information

External links