The Dance of Death - Medival Art

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The Dance of Death by Vincent of Kasta

One of the most interesting images of death in the medieval art besides the Last Judgment is the dance macabre, the Dance of Death. It is a strange fantasy for us, but probably very consistent with the medieval acknowledgement of death and life as a continuum. One of the best and astonishing images of the Dance of Death is in . It is a fresco made by Vincent of Kastav around 1474. It is a very strange yet wonderful image full of all classes of men, women, children, and between them skeletons walk in procession. There are ten characters in this dance; each one is accompanied by Death. In-between the skeletons dance the pope, the cardinal, the bishop, the king, the queen, the innkeeper, the child, the maimed, the knight, and finally the merchant, who stands by a table covered with goods. The skeletons are naked and some of them play music; bagpipes, mandolins and wind instruments. The merchant, who is last in joining the dance, tries to bribe Death by pointing at his money. His efforts are futile; Death will never spare a "dancer" in exchange for mere riches. There are ten characters in this dance ; each one is accompanied by Death. After the first skeleton come the pope, the cardinal, the bishop, the king, the queen, the innkeeper, the child, the maimed, the knight, and finally the merchant, who stands by a table covered with goods. Notice that the laymen are separated from the clerics ; the first three characters are religious men, while the others are not. The order in which they are introduced is most peculiar. Of course the king comes first, bearing his sceptre adorned with lilies, and then the queen follows. But the innkeeper, the child and the maimed come before the knight, which breaks the rule : usually the dance of death complies with the social hierarchy. The skeletons do not wear the usual shroud ; they are naked, and show protuberant thighbones in place of a pelvis. Some of them play music. The bagpipe player...
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