|The authority / preacher introduces the dance.|
The world's first dance of death was probably the one on the wall of the churchyard Cimetière des Innocents in Paris. This was the dance that Lydgate translated into English and the dance that inspired the one in Lübeck. This dance may be called the mother of all dances of death.
|Death, carrying a coffin, opens the ball with the pope.|
The painting was finished Easter 1425 - i.e. 38 years before the painting in St. Mary's Church in Lübeck. This was a relatively quiet period in the 100 Years War - and both text and pictures are full of satire and slapstick. The portly abbot is told that the fattest person is the first to rot: »Le plus gras est premier pourry«. Death makes eyes(!) at the chevalier and tugs the urineglass-carrying physician by his crotch.
In 1485 Guyot Marchand published the text - illustrated with woodcuts. We know that Guyot Marchand followed the original reasonably closely - since the text also survives in 16 different manuscripts.
As the picture to the left shows, the dance of death starts with an "acteur", who gives us an introductory admonishment - just like in Tallinn, Berlin and in the books. The preacher's first words "O creature roysonnable" exactly match those in Tallinn/Lübeck: "Och redelike creatuer", which shows that the dance in Paris has inspired the dance in Lübeck.
Then follows Death with the pope (see picture to the right). Death carries a coffin - just like in Lübeck and Tallinn. The dancers are alternating clergy and laity - same arrangement as in Lübeck.
One thing that sets this dance of death apart from all the German and Danish dances on the rest of this site, is that there's no music. Several times Death carries a coffin, a spade, a scythe or a gigantic arrow — but never any musical instrument.
Here follows the introduction:
On this site, the woodcuts from Paris' dance of death has been used to illustrate the dance of death in London.
Footnotes: (1) (2) (3) (4)
As mentioned, the text was reproduced in many versions - and "Le Mort" and "La Mort" are used at random. See Death's Dance, or Line of the Dead.