The nobleman

The nobleman
Milde: St. Mary's Church
Mariakirken, 1463

Here we get one of the best views of Lübeck City in the year 1463. The angle is from the east, and the church on the left of Death is the Church of Mary, that is, the very church in which the painting was hanging.

The church between Death and the nobleman is the Jakobi Kirche (St. James' Church). It can be recognized by the balls at the bottom of the spire, but this is a bit hard to see in Suhl's engravings, so I'll refer to Milde's lithographs instead.

The nobleman is depicted with a hunting falcon in his hand. The nobleman always has one of those in the dances of death.

One may well wonder what the nobleman is doing at this place in the dance, now that we are among the citizens of Lübeck, because there didn't live any noblemen inside Lübeck, which was a free imperial city of the Holy Roman Empire. The remnants of the old Low German text from 1463 show that the order of nobleman and mayor was changed, when the painting was replaced in 1701. Presumably, the wealthy citizens of Lübeck believed that their leader, the mayor, was more powerful than an ordinary nobleman.

See the pages about Jacob von Melle and Wilhelm Mantels for details.

Ludewig SuhlThomas Nugent

    der Tod
Was hilft es deiner Faust, die manches Stück erjagt,
Wenn man dies wahre Wort nach deinem Hintritt sagt:
Dem Iäger ist es so, wie seinem Wild ergangen,
Denn jenes ward durch ihn, er durch den Tod gefangen.

    XXVI. Death to the Nobleman.
How vain thy boasts of hunting, friend,
Or hawking ! why dost thou pretend
To be a sportsman ? when alas !
With all your skill you cannot pass
my fatal arrow ; far more true
Than any that belong to you:
Then think on this, and yield thy breath,
No sportsmen are so sure as Death.


    der Edelmann
Ich war auf nichts so sehr als auf die Iagd verpicht,
Die Sonne fand mich zwar, doch in den Federn nicht,
Kein Wild entwischte mir in dickbelaubten Büschen,
Ietzt kan ich leider selbst dem Tode nicht entwischen.

    XXVII. The Nobleman's answer.
Hunting indeed's my fav'rite sport,
I lik'd it better far than court:
The rising sun with blushing face,
Ne'er found me absent from the chace;
The hounds the fallow deer pursue,
But now I am o'ertook by you.