DANSE MACABRE : codex ask

Medieval woodcuts and Engravings

The Book of Miracles that first surfaced a few years ago and recently made its way into an American private collection is one of the most spectacular new discoveries in the field of Renaissance art. The nearly complete surviving illustrated manuscript, which was created in the Swabian Imperial Free City of Augsburg around 1550, is composed of 169 pages with large-format illustrations in gouache and watercolor depicting wondrous and often eerie celestial phenomena, constellations, conflagrations, and floods as well as other catastrophes and occurrences. It deals with events ranging from the creation of the world and incidents drawn from the Old Testament, ancient tradition, and medieval chronicles to those that took place in the immediate present of the book’s author and, with the illustrations of the visionary Book of Revelation, even includes the future end of the world.

(Source: willigula, via toledeol)

Bibliothèque nationale de France, Français 22971, f. 60v (Sri Lanka). Secrets de l’histoire naturelle. Cognac, c1480-1485. Artist: Robinet Testard. snail houses.

Bibliothèque nationale de France, Français 22971, f. 60v (Sri Lanka). Secrets de l’histoire naturelle. Cognac, c1480-1485. Artist: Robinet Testard. snail houses.

(Source: inacom, via medieval)

in the court of Pluto and ProserpinaÉvrart de Conty, Les Échecs amoureux, France 1496-1498.
BnF, Français 143, fol. 136v

in the court of Pluto and Proserpina

Évrart de Conty, Les Échecs amoureux, France 1496-1498.

BnF, Français 143, fol. 136v

(Source: discardingimages)

Hell (xylograph), from ”La Cite de Dieu”, 1486-87  - Anonymous of French School ( 15th century);  Castres, Bibliotheque Municipale

Hell (xylograph), from ”La Cite de Dieu”, 1486-87 - Anonymous of French School ( 15th century); Castres, Bibliotheque Municipale

(Source: paysagemauvais, via toledeol)

Magicien Hermogene, 1565. 
Pieter van der Heyden Bruegel. Engraving

Magicien Hermogene, 1565.
Pieter van der Heyden Bruegel. Engraving

Lancelot en prose. Français 113

Century: XV

Bibliothèque nationale de France, Département des manuscrits, Français 113, fol. 117r.

mouth of hellThomas de Saluces, Le Chevalier errant, Paris ca. 1403-1404.
BnF, Français 12559, p. 192

mouth of hell

Thomas de Saluces, Le Chevalier errant, Paris ca. 1403-1404.

BnF, Français 12559, p. 192

(Source: discardingimages)

Ten thousand martyrs of Mount Ararat  

Les Grandes Heures d’Anne de Bretagne, Jean Bourdichon, Tours or Paris 1503-1508.

Ten thousand martyrs of Mount Ararat

Les Grandes Heures d’Anne de Bretagne, Jean Bourdichon, Tours or Paris 1503-1508.

Devil-wheel breaking souls

Devil-wheel breaking souls

St Margaret of Antioch, patron saint of pregnancy, labour, and childbirth 
Horae ad usum fratrum praedicatorum (Hours of Frederick of Aragon). Tours, 1501-1504. Artist: Jean Bourdichon.

“And whilst she was in prison, she prayed our Lord that the fiend that had fought with her, he would visibly show him unto her. And then appeared a horrible dragon and assailed her, and would have devoured her, but she made the sign of the cross, and anon he vanished away. And in another place it is said that he swallowed her into his belly, she making the sign of the cross. And the belly brake asunder, and so she issued out all whole and sound.” [Jacobus de Voragine, The Golden Legend (Caxton edition)

St Margaret of Antioch, patron saint of pregnancy, labour, and childbirth
Horae ad usum fratrum praedicatorum (Hours of Frederick of Aragon). Tours, 1501-1504. Artist: Jean Bourdichon.

“And whilst she was in prison, she prayed our Lord that the fiend that had fought with her, he would visibly show him unto her. And then appeared a horrible dragon and assailed her, and would have devoured her, but she made the sign of the cross, and anon he vanished away. And in another place it is said that he swallowed her into his belly, she making the sign of the cross. And the belly brake asunder, and so she issued out all whole and sound.” [Jacobus de Voragine, The Golden Legend (Caxton edition)

‘The pope, the cardinal and bishops in the embrace of the apocalyptic beast.’ 
Prague, Musée nat., Bibl., IV. B. 24, f. 69r. Jena Codex (late 15th century).

The pope, the cardinal and bishops in the embrace of the apocalyptic beast.’
Prague, Musée nat., Bibl., IV. B. 24, f. 69r. Jena Codex (late 15th century).

Lucifer accompanied by lesser demons Bodleian Library-Livre de la Vigne nostre Seigneur, France (1.450-1.470)

Lucifer accompanied by lesser demons Bodleian Library-Livre de la Vigne nostre Seigneur, France (1.450-1.470)

Wound Man, mid 15th century, Venice

from London’s Wellcome Library’s collection of medieval anatomy diagrams. This wound man hails from the 1400s and offers all sorts of valuable advice on how to remove swords from his torso and extremities.

Wound Man, mid 15th century, Venice

from London’s Wellcome Library’s collection of medieval anatomy diagrams. This wound man hails from the 1400s and offers all sorts of valuable advice on how to remove swords from his torso and extremities.

Nature Forging a Baby, from the Roman de la Rose
Low Countries, 1490- 1500


This small painting of Nature fashioning a baby on an anvil is one of ninety-four total miniature illuminations in a late medieval Belgian manuscript of the Roman de la Rose made for Engelbert II, Count of Nassau and Vianden. The Roman de la Rose is an allegorical poem in two sections; in 1230 Guillaume de Lorris composed the first part of the poem, which tells of a courtier’s attempts to seduce his lover within a walled garden, and in 1275 Jean de Meun contributed a lengthy second section to the poem that focused primarily on a learned, allegorical dream sequence with discussions among Genius, Art, and Nature. The Roman de la Rose proved wildly popular from its debut to the sixteenth century; over 300 manuscripts survive. The poem’s quite physical language and often sensual content were also controversial and the Roman de la Rose invited critique from notable intellectuals of the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries, including Christine de Pizan. The figure of Nature in particular features prominently within Jean de Meun’s addition to the poem. In her interactions with Genius and Art, Nature calls attention to her role as the source of creation and regeneration in the world. In this illustration, Nature appears in the guise of a smith who forges new life from lifeless matter, represented by the macabre fragments of infant bodies in the picture’s bottom-left corner. She appears dressed in a clean gown, skirt, and apron, which may allude to Nature’s insistence upon the purity of her craft as opposed to the artifice of Art’s trade. Her long hair and jeweled headdress may be intended to convey her authority. Though this particular representation of Nature shows her forging human babies, other instances of the motif from copies of the Roman de la Rose depict Nature forging all types of life, including birds, plants, and reptiles.


Current Location: London, British Library, MS Harley 4425, f140r
Original Location: Netherlands, S. (Bruges)

Nature Forging a Baby, from the Roman de la Rose
Low Countries, 1490- 1500


This small painting of Nature fashioning a baby on an anvil is one of ninety-four total miniature illuminations in a late medieval Belgian manuscript of the Roman de la Rose made for Engelbert II, Count of Nassau and Vianden. The Roman de la Rose is an allegorical poem in two sections; in 1230 Guillaume de Lorris composed the first part of the poem, which tells of a courtier’s attempts to seduce his lover within a walled garden, and in 1275 Jean de Meun contributed a lengthy second section to the poem that focused primarily on a learned, allegorical dream sequence with discussions among Genius, Art, and Nature. The Roman de la Rose proved wildly popular from its debut to the sixteenth century; over 300 manuscripts survive. The poem’s quite physical language and often sensual content were also controversial and the Roman de la Rose invited critique from notable intellectuals of the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries, including Christine de Pizan. The figure of Nature in particular features prominently within Jean de Meun’s addition to the poem. In her interactions with Genius and Art, Nature calls attention to her role as the source of creation and regeneration in the world. In this illustration, Nature appears in the guise of a smith who forges new life from lifeless matter, represented by the macabre fragments of infant bodies in the picture’s bottom-left corner. She appears dressed in a clean gown, skirt, and apron, which may allude to Nature’s insistence upon the purity of her craft as opposed to the artifice of Art’s trade. Her long hair and jeweled headdress may be intended to convey her authority. Though this particular representation of Nature shows her forging human babies, other instances of the motif from copies of the Roman de la Rose depict Nature forging all types of life, including birds, plants, and reptiles.


Current Location: London, British Library, MS Harley 4425, f140r
Original Location: Netherlands, S. (Bruges)

Locher, Jacob, 1471-1528. Carmen heroicum de partu monstrifero. Ingolstadt: Johann Kachelofen, after 26 Nov. 1499.

One of the earliest printed illustrations of a set of conjoined twins and the earliest printed work devoted entirely to the subject. The crude woodcut depicts thoracopagus twins, i.e. twins joined at the chest. The inset shows the bands of tissue and shared organs uniting the twins.

Locher, Jacob, 1471-1528. Carmen heroicum de partu monstrifero. Ingolstadt: Johann Kachelofen, after 26 Nov. 1499.

One of the earliest printed illustrations of a set of conjoined twins and the earliest printed work devoted entirely to the subject. The crude woodcut depicts thoracopagus twins, i.e. twins joined at the chest. The inset shows the bands of tissue and shared organs uniting the twins.

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