The Dance of Death was a recurring subject in Medieval culture, particularly art, depicting a round dance with Death as the instigator of the festivities. Oftentimes, people from all strata of society – from nobles to peasants – were shown engaging in the dance.
In Germany the Dance of Death was known as the Totentanz, while in France it was called the Danse Macabre. In Spain these scenes were called Danzas de los muertos.
Besides paintings, textbooks were printed with short dialogues between Death and its invitees. One such textbook, printed in Germany circa 1460, relates Death’s call to an emperor:
- “Her keyser euch hilft nicht das swert
- Czeptir vnd crone sint hy nicht wert
- Ich habe euch bey der hand genomen
- Ir must an meynen reyen komen”
- “Emperor, your sword won’t help you out
- Sceptre and crown are worthless here
- I’ve taken you by the hand
- For you must come to my dance”
- “Ich habe gehabt [vil arbeit gross]
- Der sweis mir du[rch die haut floss]
- Noch wolde ich ger[n dem tod empfliehen]
- Zo habe ich des glu[cks nit hie]“
- “I had to work very much and very hard
- The sweat was running down my skin
- I’d like to escape death nontheless
- But here I won’t have any luck”
Franz Liszt transcribed this same piece for piano solo. In addition, he composed a series of variations for solo piano and orchestra on the Gregorian plainchant melody Dies Irae, which he titled Totentanz.
At J&O Fabrics, some of our customers’ favorite fabrics are those that depict skulls, living skeletons and other similarly macabre themes. What is the attraction that so many feel towards these ghoulish quilting fabrics? See for yourself.
With our selection of skull and skeleton fabrics you will be able to perform your own danse macabre while adding a morbid flair to your fabric projects.
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