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This charming collection of miniature engravings are by Wenceslaus Hollar and entitled Mortalium Nobilitas or Dance of Death. The work was published in London by J. Coxhead in 1816. The collection features 30 loose engravings (of 33) placed in a modern navy case.
The Dance of Death engravings feature a “lively” skeleton leading another person away in dance step. the social rank, occupation, or custom were recognizable in each pairing.
The original illustrations were done by Hans Holbein and depicted the famous Dance of Death, the celebrated 15th century wall paintings in Basel on the Predigerkirche. Hollar may have more closely published his engravings from Arnold Birkmann’s woodcuts that were after Holbein’s original illustrations. Birkmann added buildings and background, something Hollar likely preferred for his publication, and would later inspire engravings from Thomas Neale and David Deuchar.
Wenceslaus Hollar (1607-1677) was a prolific Bohemian etcher producing over 400 drawings and 3000 etchings in his lifetime. He studied in Frankfurt under the acclaimed Matthaus Merian. His work and collections are now shown in the British Museum, Windsor Castle, Fisher Library in Toronto, and National Gallery in Prague.