Alfred Rethel’s Totentanz


Der Tod als Erwürger (1851) by Alfred Rethel.

The Danse Macabre seems to be a theme of the month given recent postings at BibliOdyssey, Wurzletod and 50 Watts. In addition to posting examples, BibliOdyssey points the way to some original sources at Düsseldorf, four of them books that feature engravings by German artist Alfred Rethel (1816–1859). (All four books appear to be the same works, unfortunately.) The pictures here are later Rethel pieces that are a lot more detailed, and may well be the last things the artist had published. A note at the British Museum (where a larger copy of the first picture can be seen) states that Rethel was “Insane since 1853”.


Der Tod als Freund (1851) by Alfred Rethel.

Elsewhere on { feuilleton }
The etching and engraving archive

Previously on { feuilleton }
The art of Jacopo Ligozzi, 1547–1627
Massachusetts memento mori
Skull cameras
Walmor Corrêa’s Memento Mori
The skull beneath the skin
Vanitas paintings
Very Hungry God
History of the skull as symbol

The art of Jacopo Ligozzi, 1547–1627


Cartouche with Macabre Symbols and a Hairy Skull (no date).

Some macabre things for a macabre month. Jacopo Ligozzi was a Mannerist artist, and the date of his birth here is the most commonly cited one, some sources give later years. The excesses of Mannerism—distorted figures, sensational subject matter, grotesquery in general—used to be regarded with suspicion if not downright hostility by the guardians of good taste who write art history books. Peter & Linda Murray’s frequently snotty Dictionary of Art and Artists (1959) describes the style as being “best adapted to neurotic artists”, then goes on to list a few allegedly neurotic types, none of whom are Ligozzi. Judging by these examples, the artist had a thing for memento mori since many of the examples of his work online are grotesque cartouches or scenes of a rampaging Death. The last picture here showing a curious peacock boat is credited to Remigio Cantagallina and was discovered at the rather wonderful Frequent Peacock (now relocated here), another site which saves me the trouble of searching out further peacock pictures.

Thanks to Wunderkammer for the Ligozzi tip!

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