Lübeck's Dance of Death

Ludewig Suhl

Water colours.
Suhl
Water colours.
Suhl

The first person to reproduce the painting, was the preacher and juror Ludewig Suhl (11/11 1753 - 3/1 1819) who made the watercolours shown here.

These watercolours were published as copperplates in the book "Der Todtentanz nach einem 320 Jahre alten Gemaehlde in der St. Marienkirche zu Lübeck auf einer Reihe von acht Kupfertafeln, wobey zugleich im Hintergrunde perspectivische Vorstellungen der Stadt Lübeck nach verschiedenen Theilen und Seiten, der Mecklenburgischen und Holsteinischen Grenzen, der Trave, ihrer Mündung und der Ostsee. Unter jeder Tafel stehen hochteutsche Reime von Nathanael Schlott, die älteren niedersächsischen Reime sind wieder mit abgedruckt so viele noch davon zu finden waren, wobey zugleich einige Erläuterungen über diesen Todtentanz und ähnliche Vorstellungen überhaupt von Ludewig Suhl. Lübeck. 1783". The book was published by Christian Gottfried Donatius - the name of the engraver is unknown.

After the physician comes a little group consisting of two cadavers, one of which is playing the fiddle, and a woman.
Milde shows it correctly.
Hauttmann, three figures
Suhl incorrectly shows one cadaver playing the flute and two living persons.
Suhl, three figures

The book contained a general introduction to the dance of death, and included the Low German text from 1463. This text was in all probability copied from Jakob van Melle. At the back of the book were eight copper engravings glued together showing the dance together with "new" High German text from 1701.

In general Suhl did a good job of recording the painting, but there are many small deviations and errors, which is a good help when determining whether later reproductions of the painting are independent witnesses or are based on Suhl (several examples at the bottom of this page). Most notably are the three little figures to the right of the physician (picture left and right).

On the present site, Suhl's engravings are used to illustrate the "new" text from 1701 by Nathanael Schlott.

Along with the High German text I include the rather free translations from Thomas Nugent's book: Travels through Germany. The Danish version of these pages instead include a Danish translation by Lydert Höyer from 1738.

Suhl, part 1Suhl, part 2Suhl, part 3Suhl, part 4Suhl, part 5Suhl, part 6Suhl, part 7Suhl, part 8
Click the thumbnails to see picture and text.

Sources


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