Die Arbeit des Todes by Ferdinand Barth


Another chance discovery from my recent research onslaught at the Internet Archive. Die Arbeit des Todes (The Work of Death, 1865) is a late example of the Danse Macabre by Ferdinand Barth (1842–1892) presented in book form via ink drawings and simple verses. The Germans had a flair for this theme, other notable examples being by Holbein the Younger, Michael Heinrich Rentz and Alfred Rethel. Barth follows the medieval template by showing a reaper figure paying a terminal visit to people of all ages, professions and stations in life. If the series lacks the reassurance given to earlier audiences that the high and mighty will also be ushered into the grave, there’s some grim humour in the plates that show Death offering a helping hand to unsuspecting victims.





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