What is The Dance of Death?
Dance of death: death and the bishop.
Etching attributed to J.-A. Chovin, 1720-1776, after the Basel dance of death.
What does The Dance of Death symbolise?
The Dance of Death is a memento mori, a Latin phrase meaning, 'remember that you must die.' A memento mori is a creative theme and philosophical ethos designed to emphasise the shortness of human life and remind the audience of their mortality. (Read our guide to understanding memento mori. )
The Dance of Death serves as a reminder that death can come at any point and to anyone. We may have different life experiences due to our gender, age, social status and level of wealth, but what unites and equalises us is that, in the end, we will all die.
The dance of death: the old woman. Woodcut by Hans Holbein the younger.
The Dance of Death represented in fine art
The Dance of Death became a popular artistic theme during the Black Death, the bubonic plague that swept through Eurasia and North Africa between 1346 to 1353, which indiscriminately killed millions of people from all walks of life. This theme is echoed in the Dance of Death.
The dance of death: death and the fishwife.
Etching by D.-N. Chodowiecki, 1791, after himself.
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