HOLBEIN, Hans. Les Simulachres & historiées faces de la mort, autant élégammēt pourtraictes que artificiellement imaginées.

Price : 65.000,00 

A precious first edition of Hans Holbein's Dance of the Dead, printed in Lyon in 1538. masterfully illustrated with 41 drawings by the master, engraved by Hans Lützelburger.
The widest copy (height: 177 mm) recorded on the market for several decades.

1 in stock

SKU: LCS-18475 Categories: ,

Lyon, Melchior & Gaspar Trechsel, 1538.

Small 4to of (52) leaves, signed A-M4.

Full brown morocco, blind-stamped central fleuron, decorated ribbed spine, gilt inner border, gilt edges. Binding signed Trautz-Bauzonnet, circa 1865.

177 x 123 mm.

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« Earliest known edition of this remarkable work with its most fascinating designs of exquisite finish » (Murray).

Brunet, III, 254 ; Brun, Le livre français illustré de la Renaissance, p. 222 ; Mortimer 284 ; Murray 247 ; Massmann S. 8 ; Minns 213 ; Holbein-Kat. Basel 1960, nr. 418 ; Woltmann92-149 ; Hollstein XIVa, 202, 99 ; 247 ; Brunschwig, 428 ; Baudrier, V, 175 ; Rothschild, I, 15.

‘Suite of 41 compositions beautifully engraved after Holbein’s drawings. The monogram HL on l. 36 on the duchess’s bed is by Hans Lützelbürger (plate XX)’. Brun.

First edition of Holbein’s Dance of Death, whose iconographic influence continues to the present day. « Holbein’s contribution to the traditional Dance of Death was a sharpening of the humor and satire and a heightening of the drama, so that the customary procession of figures becomes instead under his hand a series of fully realized scenes » (Mortimer).

Erste Druckausgabe von Holbeins Basler Totentanz. « Die Folge besteht aus 51 Bildern, von denen 41 beim Tode Lützelburgers, vor Johannistag 1526, vollendet waren und in der Ausgabe von 1538 erschienen. Melchior Trechsel hatte die Stöcke direkt bei Lützelburger bestellt und am Johannistag 1526 bezogen ; nach Aussage des Vorworts von 1538 getraute man sich nicht, die restlichen Stöcke schneiden zu lassen » (Holbein-Kat.).

(First printed edition of Holbein’s Basel Dance of the Dead. ‘The suite consists of 51 images, 41 of which were completed at Lützelburger’s death, before Midsummer 1526, and which were published in the 1538 edition…).

Very rare first issue of this remarkable and famous suite of The Dance of the Dead, imagined by Holbein and ‘which’ according to the bibliographers ‘must be ranked among the most beautiful books ever published’. 

This very precious dance of the dead comprises 41 prints engraved by Hanz Lützelburger, based on drawings by Hans Holbein.

The monogram H signs the engraving of the Duchess.

In 1536 the brilliant artist was chosen as one of Henri VIII’s painters.

In 1538 Holbein left for Belgium and then visited Lyon. This trip coincided with the first publication in that city, by Gaspar and Melchior Trechsel, ofSimulacres et Historiées faces de la mort’.

The 41 woodcuts that adorn the volume had been printed in Basel as early as 1530, but had never been brought together in a collection. Holbein’s Basel collaborator, Hans Lùtzelburger, executed here the engravings from his master’s drawings (see his monogram ‘HL’ on f. 36).

The first series of these chilling yet humorous images gives great importance to what was to become one of the most famous illustrated books of the Renaissance.

Holbein’s last known work was a drawing dated 1543, the year in which the great artist was struck down by a plague epidemic.

The absolutely remarkable iconography bears witness to Holbein’s genius, in the originality, expression and realism of the scenes evoking the different classes of society, as well as in the extreme finesse of the drawing.

‘The wonderful pictures of his most facinating designs of exquisite finish’ were the source of inspiration for many later artists.

Each of the engravings is laid out under an extract of 3 Latin lines from the Bible and is accompanied by a quatrain in French.

All classes of society are represented in this masterly production, with its fascinating realism.

The work was so successful that 12 editions were published between 1538 and 1562.


Holbein’s Dance of Death
1- Creation

2- Temptation

3- Expulsion from Paradise

4- Adam tilling the soil

5- The bones of all the dead

6- The Pope

7- The emperor

8- The king

9- The cardinal

10- The empress

11- The queen

12- The bishop

13- The Duke

14- The abbot

15- The abbess

16- The nobleman

17- Canon

18- Judge

19- Lawyer

20- Senator

21- Preacher

22- The priest

23- The monk

24- The nun

25- The old lady

26- The doctor

27- The astrologer

28- The rich man

29- The merchant

30- The navigator

31- The knight

32- The count

33- The old man

34- The countess

35- The noblewoman

36- The duchess

37- The travelling salesman

38- The farmer

39- The child

40- The Last Judgement

41- The crest of Death


The quatrains and epistle in French are attributed to Jean de Vauzelles or Gilles Corrozet.

The widest copy (height: 177 mm) recorded on the market for several decades.

Provenance: the copy comes from the famous library of the entrepreneur, philanthropist and bibliophile Charles William Dyson Perrins (1864-1958); Sam Josefowitz, Pully – then by descent to the present owners.

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