{ feuilleton }


• • • Being a journal by artist and designer John Coulthart, cataloguing interests, obsessions and passing enthusiasms.


The Isle of the Dead in detail


More from the Google Art Project where a couple of paintings by Swiss Symbolist Arnold Böcklin (1827–1901) may be explored, one of them an 1883 version of cult favourite The Isle of the Dead. No need to repeat the history of that work when I’ve already written about it. The version here is from the Alte Nationalgalerie, Berlin, and is the one I’ve seen reproduced in books the least so it’s good to find it in high-quality.



Böcklin painted five versions of this scene, one of which was lost during the Second World War. A couple of them, this one included, have his initials placed over the doorway of a tomb, a detail which isn’t always visible in reproductions.


In the same collection is another gloomy Böcklin work, Self-Portrait with Death Playing the Fiddle (1872), and I hadn’t noticed before that the fiddle only has one string, the lowest, which would no doubt create a suitably dolorous melody.

For more on The Isle of the Dead see Toteninsel.net, a site dedicated to the many works in different media derived from the paintings. If you need a musical accompaniment whilst browsing, Rachmaninoff wrote the ideal piece.

Previously on { feuilleton }
Arnold Böcklin and The Isle of the Dead



Posted in {art}, {painting}, {symbolists}.

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9 comments or trackbacks

  1. #1 posted by Gabriel McCann


    I thought Death played Chess not the fiddle

  2. #2 posted by John


    Death may do in Bergman’s world but there are hundreds of fiddling reapers in European art. Alfred Rethel did one of my favourites.

  3. #3 posted by Gabriel McCann


    Yes but are there any films with Death playing the fiddle?
    ..or maybe just the devil playing the fiddle?

  4. #4 posted by Thombeau


    The devil, as we all know, plays the accordion.

  5. #5 posted by John


    And favours polka tunes.

  6. #6 posted by Gabriel McCann

  7. #7 posted by Gabriel McCann

  8. #8 posted by John


    Sorry, any sight of the word “polka” is enough to make me reach for the mute button.

  9. #9 posted by Gabriel McCann


    In that case how about a Polka Party!






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