The Danse Macabre with a modern twist

written by Julia Schellenberg on February 15, 2016 in Content with 6 comments

The Dance of Death, also known as the Danse Macabre, represents the influence and power of death on people’s lives. It is both an artistic genre and an allegory produced to remind people of the fragility of their lives. Often, above or below the pictures, there are printed verses where Death addresses its victims.

Here, you can admire several haunting works by T. Rowlandson from the early 19th century. The satirical series is a uniquely modern interpretation of the allegory, with contemporary characters and settings bringing the tradition into the nineteenth century. 

V0042007 The dance of death: the honeymoon. Coloured aquatint by T. R Credit: Wellcome Library, London. Wellcome Images images@wellcome.ac.uk http://wellcomeimages.org The dance of death: the honeymoon. Coloured aquatint by T. Rowlandson, 1816. 1816 By: Thomas RowlandsonPublished: - Copyrighted work available under Creative Commons Attribution only licence CC BY 4.0 http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0/

…when the old fool has drank his wine, and gone to rest…I will be thine…

The dance of death: the honeymoon by T. Rowlandson, 1816. The Wellcome Library, CC BY

V0042011 The dance of death: the recruit. Coloured aquatint by T. Row Credit: Wellcome Library, London. Wellcome Images images@wellcome.ac.uk http://wellcomeimages.org The dance of death: the recruit. Coloured aquatint by T. Rowlandson, 1816. 1816 By: Thomas RowlandsonPublished: - Copyrighted work available under Creative Commons Attribution only licence CC BY 4.0 http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0/

…I list you, and you’ll soon be found, one of my regiment under ground…

The dance of death: the recruit by T. Rowlandson, 1816. The Wellcome Library, CC BY

V0042018 The dance of death: time and death. Coloured aquatint by T. Credit: Wellcome Library, London. Wellcome Images images@wellcome.ac.uk http://wellcomeimages.org The dance of death: time and death. Coloured aquatint by T. Rowlandson, 1816. 1816 By: Thomas RowlandsonPublished: - Copyrighted work available under Creative Commons Attribution only licence CC BY 4.0 http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0/

…Time & Death their thoughts impart – On works of Learning & of Art…

The dance of death: time and death by T. Rowlandson, 1816. The Wellcome Library, CC BY

V0042006 The dance of death: the urchin robbers. Coloured aquatint by Credit: Wellcome Library, London. Wellcome Images images@wellcome.ac.uk http://wellcomeimages.org The dance of death: the urchin robbers. Coloured aquatint by T. Rowlandson, 1816. 1816 By: Thomas RowlandsonPublished: - Copyrighted work available under Creative Commons Attribution only licence CC BY 4.0 http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0/

…O the unconscionable Brute! To murder for a little Fruit!…

The dance of death: the urchin robbers by T. Rowlandson, 1816. The Wellcome Library, CC BY

V0042017 The dance of death: the last chase. Coloured aquatint by T. Credit: Wellcome Library, London. Wellcome Images images@wellcome.ac.uk http://wellcomeimages.org The dance of death: the last chase. Coloured aquatint by T. Rowlandson, 1816. 1816 By: Thomas RowlandsonPublished: - Copyrighted work available under Creative Commons Attribution only licence CC BY 4.0 http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0/

….Such mortal Sport the Chase attends: At Break Neck Hill the Hunting Ends…

The dance of death: the last chase by T. Rowlandson, 1816. The Wellcome Library, CC BY

If these illustrations have made you curious to see more depictions of the Dance of Death, you can look at our dedicated Pinterest board.