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The Dance of Death (Dover Fine Art, History of Art) Paperback – June 1, 1971

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The Dance of Death (Dover Fine Art, History of Art) + The Complete Woodcuts of Albrecht Dürer (Dover Fine Art, History of Art) + The Complete Engravings, Etchings and Drypoints of Albrecht Dürer (Dover Fine Art, History of Art)
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Editorial Reviews

Language Notes

Text: English, French, Latin

From the Back Cover

Hans Holbein the Younger (1497–1543), remembered today for his insightful portraits, was better known in his own time for his varied and extensive graphic works, the most celebrated of which was The Dance of Death. This work, from the woodblocks of collaborator Hans Lützelburger, was first published in book form in 1538.
The theme of the dance of death was a popular one of the sixteenth century. Holbein captured the feeling of death, the leveler, in its attack on all classes, both sexes, and all ages. A stylized skeleton seizes the child from his mother's breast. The skeleton snatches, plays, tugs, and cavorts throughout the rest of the book. The king, emperor, pope, and cardinal must cease from their functions. The skull is thrust into the face of the astrologer. The hourglass runs out onto the floor. Countess, nun, sailor, peddler, senator are all stopped by the common force. Forty-one finely cut, highly detailed woodcuts capture the single motif, Memento mori: "Remember, you will die." Although the theme is common, the variety of expressions, social groups, backgrounds, styles of dress and architecture, and calls to death are so varied that each one is unique in its power.
This edition, reprinting the unabridged 1538 edition, is the first in a series reprinting great rare books from the Rosenwald Collection. Besides the woodcuts, the book contains a prefatory letter by Jean de Vauzéle and various quotations, depictions, and meditations on death, deaths of men, and the necessity of death. A repeated series of the 41 woodblocks follows the reprinted work and contains English translations of the quotations and verses. Art historians and social historians will find this to be one of the best depictions of class life caught at its fateful moment. The collector will find this to be the finest reproduction of one of Holbein's major works.
Dover unabridged republication of the original 1538 edition of Les simulachres & historiees faces de la mort.

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Product Details

  • Series: Dover Fine Art, History of Art
  • Paperback: 160 pages
  • Publisher: Dover Publications (June 1, 1971)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0486228045
  • ISBN-13: 978-0486228044
  • Product Dimensions: 8.3 x 5.4 x 0.4 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 7.2 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 2.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (11 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #476,797 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

14 of 14 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on September 22, 1998
Format: Paperback
The woodcuts are beautifully reproduced. Included are the verses that originally accompanied each woodcut. The text is provided both in the original Latin and in modern translation. The Danse Macabre was originally a visual artistic presentation, and this book is faithful to that performance. The explanatory text before the woodcuts begin is short and to the point. Dover allows the art to speak for itself, rather than 'interpreting' it for the viewer.
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15 of 16 people found the following review helpful By PARTHO ROY on October 6, 2002
Format: Paperback
Again, the thrifty publisher Dover supplies us with an affordable classic, this time in the art of woodcuts. Hans Holbein's macabre and morbid series, "The Dance of Death," gives us a chilling view into Europe during the time when its denizens, well, weren't really expected to make it too far into life.
This Dover edition, though not as thorough as the complete 1538 French series (now out of print), provides a faithful reproduction of Holbein's masterpiece, with the original textual accompaniment in Latin (with English). In these marvelous woodcuts, the viewer can easily sense the feeling of dread within the European community during a time that death came all too easily.
Of course, death is a theme from which we can never truly escape, so I suppose Holbein's art speaks to all the ages. Until we ourselves come to meet the Eternal Footman, we have Holbein's "Dance of Death" to give us a glimpse into what we may expect.
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10 of 11 people found the following review helpful By M. Dalton on January 9, 2007
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Holbeins illustrations are brilliant and fascinating. This book is very inexpensive. These two factors should make it a great addition to any library. But the images are something like 2 inches square. You can't see any detail really. I was disappointed and I guess I'll have to find another book as I would like to enjoy this macabre and fascinating series.
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7 of 9 people found the following review helpful By JB on May 22, 2005
Format: Paperback
The woodcuts are very small, maybe 2 inches each side.

The details are hard to see this small. The Complete Woodcuts of Albrecht Durer is fabulous for observing large woodcuts.

With their side aside, the playfully dark figures are amusing for those who enjoy the morbid.
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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
The Dance of Death ("dance macabre" in French, "Totentanz" in German) is one of the most enduring art forms of 15th-16th Century Europe. And the most popular and famous Dance of Death series is that of Hans Holbein the Younger - a set of 41 woodcuts depicting death interrupting the lives of men, women, and children from all walks and stations of life in order to make its unwelcome and ineluctable claim. Holbein's series also draws from and incorporates a related pictorial tradition of human mortality - the "Memento mori" ("remember that you will die"), which emphasizes the need for the devout to always be prepared for death. What makes Holbein's series so striking is his depiction of death in the form of mocking, leering, gleeful skeletal figures.

Holbein's Dance of Death was first published in collected book form in 1538 in Lyons, France. The greater part of this Dover edition (the first 104 pages) consists of a facsimile of that 1538 book. Inasmuch as it was written and published in 16th-Century French, few modern native-English-speaking readers are likely to be drawn to it. The attraction of the Dover edition is the last 41 pages, in which Holbein's 41 woodcuts are repeated in order, with English translations of the original Latin Biblical verses and French quatrains that appeared with each print in the 1538 edition.

As set forth in this Dover edition, Holbein's prints are small - 2½ inches by 1¾ inches (the same size as in the original) - and not as sharp or crisp as one would like (probably the result of deterioration of the original wood blocks used in 1538 to print the particular copy from which this facsimile was made).
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Tarehna Wicker on November 8, 2013
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
I got the Kindle version for free. Awesome!!! No illustrations at all in the Kindle version I received. That seems utterly ridiculous. Is that why it's free? Because the only reason to get the book is for the illustrations.
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