Dance of Death


Chorea ab eximio Macabro versibus alemanicis edita, better known under the uniform title Dance of Death, is an example of a late-medieval morality play, the purpose of which was to teach that all humanity must die and that therefore every person needed to prepare to meet his or her maker. In the 14th–15th centuries, constant warfare, recurring famines, and the plague meant that the threat of sudden death was ever present and called forth constant reminders of the need for repentance before God. The edition of the play shown here dates from 1490. It is the Latin translation by Pierre Desrey (1450–approximately 1520) of the late version of the French medieval ballad (“La danse macabre nouvelle”), which was the main source of the other 14 editions of the play published in French between 1485 and 1500. The illustrations in this book are considered to be the most beautiful of the French xylographs (wood engravings) from 15th century. Some scholars think that the creator of this book could have been Pierre Le Rouge, a miniaturist of the Tours school who became an engraver and printer. The approximately 40 characters who take part in this dance with Death represent a range of physiognomies and costumes across all social categories in the France in that era, portrayed accurately by a contemporary artist.

Date Created

Subject Date

Publication Information

Guy Marchant, Paris


Title in Original Language

Chorea ab eximio Macabro versibus alemanicis edita


Type of Item

Physical Description

29 pages : illustrations ; 25 centimeters

Last updated: May 31, 2016