Funerals as Represented by Artists
Whether it be writing, painting, dance or film, death has always been a popular, yet
taboo subject of art. For as many forms of art as you can imagine, there is an artist
waiting to tackle this challenging and sometimes troubling subject.
This main topic focuses on all subjects, but
not limited to, topics dealing with funeral in
the arts. Whether it be film, dance, theater
productions, or a variety of other art forms.
It also covers, funeral music from the past
and present, be it symphony or modern. It
also includes sections about books, short
stories, poetry, paintings, murals, and more.
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Dance of Death or Danse
A Representative or scene in medieval art
and literature stressing Death’s power over
man. Death usually takes form of a
skeleton leading people of all classes, rich
and poor alike, in a dance to the grave.

The Dance of Death probably began in
14th century Germany as a morality play
in which Death carried on a dialogue with
his followers. Dramatic presentations
became common in France, England, and
Medieval Dances
In the Middle Ages the church permitted dancing in miracle and mystery plays
performed on church porches. At first the only characters who danced were Satan
and his followers. Later plays included other dancers.

An unexplained hysteria, called dance mania, seized Europe in the 11th century. At
festivals and funerals people danced frenziedly in churchyards in efforts to
communicate with the dead. When dancers would not stop at the command of a
priest according to legend, he would curse them to dance all year. The dance curse
inspired Hans Christian Anderson’s fairy tale, Red Shoes. Another fairy tale,
Sleeping Beauty, is derived from a Hungarian funeral dance in which one person
pretends to die and is kissed back to life.

The churchyard dancing is called danse macabre (from the French word for
“dance” and the Arabic for “churchyards”). It is also known as the “dance of
death.” (The definition for Dance of Death describes a later dance, one that was
used for morality plays, the two should not be confused.)
Many artists used the subject. As early as 1425 a series of
drawings with accompanying verses was painted on the
wall of the churchyard of the Monastery of the Innocents
in Paris. Hans Holbein the Younger did a notable series of
woodcuts on the subject.

Goethe and W.H. Auden are among the poets who have
written verse interpretations of the Dance of Death.
Camille Saint-Saens composed Danse Macabre (1875), a
symphonic tone poem that is the most notable musical
expression of the theme.
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La Danse Macabre- Hans Holbein
Hans Holbein the Younger

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