Jean Belot of Geneva

Geneva, 1500
Jean Belot, Belot

Guy Marchant had great success with his books as evidenced by the number of people who started publishing their own version of La Danse Macabre. The book to the left was published in 1500 in Geneva: »Imprimee a genesue. M. ccccc.« presumably by Jean Belot. however, the woodcuts are not a copies of Marchant, but copies of Antoine Vérard.

The front page is adorned (if that is the right word) by two of the four dead musicians that Guy Marchant had added to his books in 1486.

The front page also functions as a sort of table of contents, showing that the book like many of the similar books consists of different texts. The book doesn't just contain "La dance Macabre", but also includes the story about the three dead and the three living (»Les troys mortz et les troys vifz«) and the 15 signs preceding Judgment Day: (»Et les quinze signes precedens le grant iugement«).

Below the picture is a text, only the first line of which remains: »Viuans qui voyes ceste dance«. This introduction is very reminiscent of the end of La Vie de l'Homme: »O vous humains qui voyez cette dance«. However, it's only this single line that is similar for we know from other versions of the book that the full verse goes: »Viuans qui voyez ceste dance / Se souuent la regardez / Vous scairez se bien la gardez / Qhoneur mondain nest pas cheuance«.

The duke is a copy of Vérard's bailiff
Jean Belot, Duke

The musicians from the front page are reused on the very next page, where they are accompanied by the text: »Ce nest que vent de la vie mondaine / Mondain plaisir dure peu longuement / Longue saison na pas mais tressoudaine / Soudain mourras et ne scays quellement«.

The dance of death itself contains more or less the same text as Guy Marchant's book. The four dead musicians and six of the ten figures that Marchant had added are also included but only one of them, namely the duke, gets an original woodcut. For the five others a woodcut of some other dancer is reused instead.

The dance begins and ends with the authority
(the same woodcut is used twice).
Jean Belot, Authority

Even though the woodcuts ultimately go back to Vérard, it is not necessarily the same persons, who are allotted the same woodcuts. The duke to the right is a copy of Vérard's bailiff, while Belots' bailiff is a copy of Vérard's citizen, and Belots' citizen must share a woodcut with the merchant.

The sequence is not quite the same. For instance the suitor appears early and Belots' bailiff very late. Normally the hermit is followed by a dead man who gives answer: »Cest bien dit […]«, but in this book there is instead a single verse from the fool: »Or sont en la fin bons amys«.

The text ends with the dead king and the authority and then straightaway continues with a ballad with the refrain: »Pour bien mourir & vivre longuement«, without as much as a blank line to separate the two works.

Then comes the story of The Three Dead and the Three Living and this section ends with the colophon: »Cy fine la dance macabre auecques les ditz des troys mortz & des troys vifz. Imprimee a genesue. M. ccccc.«.

You would think that the book ends here with the colophon, but as advertised on the front page comes a section about the fifteen signs before Judgment Day: »Et les quinze signes precedens le grant iugement«

Who copied whom?

Belot: cardinal / legate
Jean Belot, Cardinal
la Barre: Cardinal / legate
Barre, Cardinal

The woodcuts are almost identical to those that were published by Nicole de la Barre of Paris. In the end both woodcut series are copies of Antoine Vérard.

The two books share many other similarities: Both start with »Viuans qui voyes ceste dance« on the front page followed by »Ce nest que vent de la vie mondaine […]« on the next page. Both end the dance with a ballad where the refrain is »Pour bien mourir et viure longuement«, so the reader is lead to believe it is an integral part of La Danse Macabre. Both books portray the duke with a copy of Vérard's bailiff, which means that Belots' bailiff is a copy of Vérard's citizen.

But who has copied whom? The most tempting thought is of course, that Nicole de la Barre was the first. He worked in Paris and was close to the St. Innocents' Cemetery, close to Guy Marchand (from whom the text was copied) and close to Vérard (from whom the images were copied).

It also speaks in favor of Nicole de la Barre that his text follows the same sequence as the original Danse Macabre.

On the other hand, Belot has two woodcuts in his 1500-edition that Nicole de la Barre doesn't have in his 1500-edition:

  1. Belot has a knight with a sword. Nicole de la Barre instead reuses his cut of the duke. Note: As mentioned both books base their duke on Vérard's bailiff.

  2. Belot has a physician with an urine glass. Nicole de la Barre reuses his cut of the astrologer. Note: Both books also use this woodcut for the schoolmaster, which means that Barre uses it thrice.

It is of course possible that Belot has based his book on an earlier (hypothetical) edition of Nicole de la Barre's book that contained these to cuts, so the question is impossible to answer.

Geneva, 1503

O Creature raisonnable, 1503
Jean Belot, Geneva 1503
Yci gist le Roy Charles
Jean Belot, Geneva 1503

The book to the left was published three years later. This edition doesn't have a front page, but starts directly with the preacher. On the other hand the cardinal and king come before the pope and emperor, with the paradoxical result that the pope is printed on page A iii in both the 1500- and the 1503-edition.

The colophon at the end informs us that the book was published in Geneva, 1503, but (like the 1500-edition) not by whom: »Cy fine la dance macabre auecques les / ditz des troys mors et des troys vifz / Imprime a genesue lan Mil.ccccc.iij«.

The book contains La Danse Macabre and the legend of The Three Living and The Three Dead, but not The 15 Signs before Judgment Day. The woodcuts are the same as in the 1500-edition, but the leaf with bishop and nobleman and two leaves about The Three Living are lacking.

In the image with the final authority (the image on the right), a previous owner has felt the call to write a message in the text scroll. The text seems to start with: »Yci gist le roy Charles Roy de France«. "Here lies the king Charles king of France <illegible>". On the left side it says "Charles".

Read the text from the dance here: O Creature raisonnable

Lyon, 1537

La dance, macabre, 1537
Nicole de la Barre, Lyon

The same woodcuts were used in Lyon in 1537 by Pierre de Saincte Lucie Dict le Prince. This time too the dance of death was "packaged" together with the three living and the three dead and the 15 signs.

Compared to the 1500-edition two or three woodcuts are missing: The nobleman with his hunting falcon is replaced by using the woodcut of the knight twice, while the parish priest is illustrated by reusing the canon. Two dancers, viz. the Carthusian and the sergeant are entirely missing. The sequence is also slightly different towards the end, for one thing the clerk has moved forwards.

The text in these books has (of course) been altered a few places. In the original text the first lines of Death's call to the monk is in reality a continuation of the dialogue with the previous dancer, the sergeant, who is told that he will not scare any more people: »Plus hommes nespoventeres«. It's only in the fourth line (which has been indented) that Death addresses the monk: »Apres moinne«. In contrast the three books we have studied have re-written the text so the whole verse is spoken to the monk. He is told that he will never be an abbot, because he shall die:

Danse Macabre (1485)Geneva / Lyon

Ha: maistre: par la passeres
Naiez ia soing de vous deffendre
Plus hommes nespoventeres.
    Apres moinne sans plus actendre.

Ha maistre par la passeres
Nayez ia soing de vous deffendre
Ne jamais abbe pas seres.
Mourir vous fault sans plus actendre.

The same thing happens when we come to the Franciscan: The first one and a half lines are last words to the peasant/laborer: »Faictes voye: vous aves tort Laboureur«. In 1486 Guy Marchant added 10 new dancers and this meant that the previous dancer no longer was the peasant but a shepherd. Therefore the text had to be revised: »Faicte voye vous aves tort Sus bergier«. Belot's books has a quite different text where the whole verse addresses the Franciscan:

Danse Macabre (1485)Danse Macabre (1486)Geneva / Lyon

Faictes voye: vous aves tort
Laboureur.     Apres cordelier
Souvent aves preschie de mort
Si vous devez moins merveillier.

Faicte voye vous aves tort
Sus bergier.     Apres cordelier
Souvent aves preschie de mort
Si vous devez moing merveillier.

Contre moy ne vault nul effort
vous le scavez bien cordelier
Souvent aves presche de mort
Dont vous devez mains merveilier.

A last example is the clerk and the hermit. The four first lines are a farewell to the clerk: »Clerc: point ne fault faire refus«. In Belot's books the word "Clerc" has been removed (and line 5 is not indented), so the reader may believe that the whole verse is for the hermit.

There are a number of other changes. This can be seen, when Silvestre, Tisserand and Dufour copy these variants.

The pictures are presented here in the same sequence as in the 1500-edition of Geneva. Woodcuts that are reused are only shown once, and with the exception of the duke, only persons among the original 30 from the mural in Paris are shown.

Jean Belot 1858: Belot
Jean Belot 1500: Authority
Jean Belot 1500: Pope
Jean Belot 1500: Emperor
Jean Belot 1500: Cardinal
Jean Belot 1500: King
Jean Belot 1500: Duke
Jean Belot 1500: Patriarch
Jean Belot 1500: Connétable
Jean Belot 1500: Archbishop
Jean Belot 1500: Knight
Jean Belot 1500: Bishop
Jean Belot 1500: Nobleman
Jean Belot 1500: Abbot
Jean Belot 1500: Suitor
Jean Belot 1500: Lawyer
Jean Belot 1500: Citizen
Jean Belot 1500: Canon
Jean Belot 1500: Carthusian
Jean Belot 1500: Sergeant
Jean Belot 1500: Monk
Jean Belot 1500: Usurer
Jean Belot 1500: Physician
Jean Belot 1500: Bailiff
Jean Belot 1500: Astrologer
Jean Belot 1500: Minstrel
Jean Belot 1500: Priest
Jean Belot 1500: Peasant
Jean Belot 1500: Franciscan
Jean Belot 1500: Child
Jean Belot 1500: Clerk
Jean Belot 1500: Hermit
Geneva 1503
Jean Belot 1503: Geneva 1503
Geneva 1503
Jean Belot 1503: Geneva 1503

Resources and Links

Further information

Footnotes: (1)

Patrick Layet "La dance, macabre des hommes" in the book "Ihr müsst alle nach meiner Pfeife tanzen" pp. 27-33.