Macabre

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Ligier Richier, upper section of the Transi de Rene de Chalon, c. 1545-47. Bar-le-Duc - Eglise Saint-Etienne - Le Transi -191.jpg
Ligier Richier, upper section of the Transi de René de Chalon, c. 1545–47.
A death head wearing the Imperial Crown of the Holy Roman Empire, on the sarcophagus of Habsburg emperor Charles VI in the crypt of the Capuchin church in Vienna, Austria. Habsburg Emperor death head dsc01325.jpg
A death head wearing the Imperial Crown of the Holy Roman Empire, on the sarcophagus of Habsburg emperor Charles VI in the crypt of the Capuchin church in Vienna, Austria.
The Triumph of Death in St Maria in Bienno Trionfo della morte - Chiesa S. Maria Annunciata - Bienno (ph Luca Giarelli).jpg
The Triumph of Death in St Maria in Bienno
Chandelier of bones and skulls, Sedlec Ossuary, Czech Republic Sedlec-Ossuary.jpg
Chandelier of bones and skulls, Sedlec Ossuary, Czech Republic
From The Dance of Death by Michael Wolgemut Nuremberg chronicles - Dance of Death (CCLXIIIIv).jpg
From The Dance of Death by Michael Wolgemut

In works of art, macabre ( US: /məˈkɑːb/ mə-KAHB or UK: /məˈkɑːbrə/ ; French:  [makabʁ] ) is the quality of having a grim or ghastly atmosphere. The macabre works to emphasize the details and symbols of death. The term also refers to works particularly gruesome in nature.

American English Set of dialects of the English language spoken in the United States

American English, sometimes called United States English or U.S. English, is the set of varieties of the English language native to the United States. American English is considered one of the most influential dialects of English globally, including on other varieties of English.

British English is the standard dialect of English language as spoken and written in the United Kingdom. Variations exist in formal, written English in the United Kingdom. For example, the adjective wee is almost exclusively used in parts of Scotland and Ireland, and occasionally Yorkshire, whereas little is predominant elsewhere. Nevertheless, there is a meaningful degree of uniformity in written English within the United Kingdom, and this could be described by the term British English. The forms of spoken English, however, vary considerably more than in most other areas of the world where English is spoken, so a uniform concept of British English is more difficult to apply to the spoken language. According to Tom McArthur in the Oxford Guide to World English, British English shares "all the ambiguities and tensions in the word 'British' and as a result can be used and interpreted in two ways, more broadly or more narrowly, within a range of blurring and ambiguity".

Contents

History

This quality is not often found in ancient Greek and Latin writers[ citation needed ], though there are traces of it in Apuleius and the author of the Satyricon. Outstanding instances in English literature include the works of John Webster, Robert Louis Stevenson, Mervyn Peake, Charles Dickens, Roald Dahl, Thomas Hardy and Cyril Tourneur. [1] In American literature, authors whose work feature this quality include Edgar Allan Poe, H. P. Lovecraft, and Stephen King. The word has gained its significance from its use in French as la danse macabre for the allegorical representation of the ever-present and universal power of death, known in English as the Dance of Death and in German as Totentanz. The typical form which the allegory takes is that of a series of images in which Death appears, either as a dancing skeleton or as a shrunken shrouded corpse, to people representing every age and condition of life, and leads them all in a dance to the grave. Of the numerous examples painted or sculptured on the walls of cloisters or church yards through medieval Europe, few remain except in woodcuts and engravings.

Ancient Greek Version of the Greek language used from roughly the 9th century BCE to the 6th century CE

The Ancient Greek language includes the forms of Greek used in Ancient Greece and the ancient world from around the 9th century BCE to the 6th century CE. It is often roughly divided into the Archaic period, Classical period, and Hellenistic period. It is antedated in the second millennium BCE by Mycenaean Greek and succeeded by Medieval Greek.

Latin Indo-European language of the Italic family

Latin is a classical language belonging to the Italic branch of the Indo-European languages. The Latin alphabet is derived from the Etruscan and Greek alphabets and ultimately from the Phoenician alphabet.

The series at Basel originally at the Klingenthal, a nunnery in Little Basel, dated from the beginning of the 14th century. In the middle of the 15th century this was moved to the churchyard of the Predigerkloster at Basel, and was restored, probably by Hans Kluber, in 1568. The collapse of the wall in 1805 reduced it to fragments, and only drawings of it remain. A Dance of Death in its simplest form still survives in the Marienkirche at Lübeck as 15th-century painting on the walls of a chapel. Here there are twenty-four figures in couples, between each is a dancing Death linking the groups by outstretched hands, the whole ring being led by a Death playing on a pipe. In Tallinn (Reval), Estonia there is a well-known Danse Macabre painting by Bernt Notke displayed at St. Nikolaus Church (Niguliste), dating the end of 15th century. At Dresden there is a sculptured life-size series in the old Neustädter Kirchhoff, moved here from the palace of Duke George in 1701 after a fire. At Rouen in the cloister of St Maclou there also remains a sculptured danse macabre. There was a celebrated fresco of the subject in the cloister of Old St Pauls in London, and another in the now destroyed Hungerford Chapel at Salisbury, of which only a single woodcut, "Death and the Gallant", remains. Of the many engraved reproductions, the most famous is the series drawn by Holbein. The theme continued to inspire artists and musicians long after the medieval period, Schubert's string quartet Death and the Maiden (1824) being one example. In the 20th century, Ingmar Bergman's 1957 film The Seventh Seal has a personified Death, and could thus count as macabre.

Basel Place in Basel-Stadt, Switzerland

Basel or Basle is a city in northwestern Switzerland on the river Rhine. Basel is Switzerland's third-most-populous city with about 180,000 inhabitants.

Klingenthal Place in Saxony, Germany

Klingenthal is a town in the Vogtland region, in the Free State of Saxony, south-eastern Germany. It is situated directly on the border with the Czech Republic opposite the Czech town of Kraslice, 29 km southeast of Plauen, and 33 km northwest of Karlovy Vary.

St. Marys Church, Lübeck Church in Lübeck, Germany

St. Mary's Church in Lübeck was built between 1250 and 1350. It has always been a symbol of the power and prosperity of the old Hanseatic city, and is situated at the highest point of the island that forms the old town of Lübeck. It is part of the UNESCO World Heritage Site of the old Hanseatic City of Lübeck.

The origin of this allegory in painting and sculpture is disputed. It occurs as early as the 14th century, and has often been attributed to the overpowering consciousness of the presence of death due to the Black Death and the miseries of the Hundred Years' War. It has also been attributed to a form of the Morality, a dramatic dialogue between Death and his victims in every station of life, ending in a dance off the stage. [2] The origin of the peculiar form the allegory has taken has also been found in the dancing skeletons on late Roman sarcophagi and mural paintings at Cumae or Pompeii, and a false connection has been traced with "The Triumph of Death", attributed to Orcagna, in the Campo Santo at Pisa.

Black Death Pandemic in Eurasia in the 1300s

The Black Death, also known as the Great Plague or the Plague, or less commonly the Black Plague, was one of the most devastating pandemics in human history, resulting in the deaths of an estimated 75 to 200 million people in Eurasia and peaking in Europe from 1347 to 1351. The bacterium Yersinia pestis, which results in several forms of plague, is believed to have been the cause. The Black Death was the first major European outbreak of plague, and the second plague pandemic. The plague created a number of religious, social and economic upheavals which had profound effects on the course of European history.

Hundred Years War Series of conflicts and wars between England and France during the 14th and 15th-century

The Hundred Years' War was a series of conflicts waged from 1337 to 1453 by the House of Plantagenet, rulers of the Kingdom of England, against the French House of Valois, over the right to rule the Kingdom of France. Each side drew many allies into the war. It was one of the most notable conflicts of the Middle Ages, in which five generations of kings from two rival dynasties fought for the throne of the largest kingdom in Western Europe. The war marked both the height of chivalry and its subsequent decline, and the development of strong national identities in both countries.

Morality differentiation of intentions, decisions and actions between those that are distinguished as proper and those that are improper

Morality is the differentiation of intentions, decisions and actions between those that are distinguished as proper and those that are improper. Morality can be a body of standards or principles derived from a code of conduct from a particular philosophy, religion or culture, or it can derive from a standard that a person believes should be universal. Morality may also be specifically synonymous with "goodness" or "rightness".

Etymology

The etymology of the word "macabre" is uncertain. According to Gaston Paris [3] it first occurs in the form "macabre" in Jean le Fèvre's Respit de la mort (1376), Je fis de Macabré la danse, and he takes this accented form to be the true one, and traces it in the name of the first painter of the subject. The more usual explanation is based on the Latin name, Machabaeorum chorea (Dance of Maccabees). The seven tortured brothers, with their mother and Eleazar (2 Maccabees 6 and 7) were prominent figures on this hypothesis in the supposed dramatic dialogues. [4] Other connections have been suggested, as for example with St. Macarius, or Macaire, the hermit, who, according to Vasari, is to be identified with the figure pointing to the decaying corpses in the Pisan Triumph of Death, or with an Arabic word maqābir (مقابر), cemeteries (plural of maqbara ).

Etymology Study of the history of words, their origins, and how their form and meaning have changed over time

Etymology is the study of the history of words. By extension, the term "the etymology " means the origin of the particular word. For place names, there is a specific term, toponymy.

Gaston Paris French medieval scholar and writer

Bruno Paulin Gaston Paris was a French writer and scholar. He was nominated for the Nobel Prize in Literature in 1901, 1902 and 1903.

Maccabees

The Maccabees, also spelled Machabees, were a group of Jewish rebel warriors who took control of Judea, which at the time was part of the Seleucid Empire. They founded the Hasmonean dynasty, which ruled from 167 BCE to 37 BCE, being a fully independent kingdom from about 110 to 63 BCE. They reasserted the Jewish religion, partly by forced conversion, expanded the boundaries of Judea by conquest and reduced the influence of Hellenism and Hellenistic Judaism.

See also

Body horror or biological horror is a subgenre of horror that intentionally showcases graphic or psychologically disturbing violations of the human body. These violations may manifest through aberrant sex, mutations, mutilation, zombification, gratuitous violence, disease, or unnatural movements of the body. Body horror was a description originally applied to an emerging subgenre of North American horror films, but has roots in early Gothic literature and has expanded to include other media.

Black comedy Comic work based on subject matter that is generally considered taboo

Black comedy, also known as black humor, dark comedy or gallows humor, is a comic style that makes light of subject matter that is generally considered taboo, particularly subjects that are normally considered serious or painful to discuss. Writers and comedians often use it as a tool for exploring vulgar issues, by provoking discomfort and serious thought as well as amusement in their audience. Popular themes of the genre include death and violence, discrimination, disease, and human sexuality.

<i>Danse Macabre</i> artistic motif on the universality of death

The Danse Macabre, also called the Dance of Death, is an artistic genre of allegory of the Late Middle Ages on the universality of death: no matter one's station in life, the Dance Macabre unites all.

Related Research Articles

Allegory Literary device

As a literary device, an allegory is a metaphor in which a character, place or event is used to deliver a broader message about real-world issues and occurrences. Allegory has occurred widely throughout history in all forms of art, largely because it can readily illustrate or convey complex ideas and concepts in ways that are comprehensible or striking to its viewers, readers, or listeners.

Hans Baldung German artist

Hans Baldung Grien or Grün was a German artist in painting and printmaking who was considered the most gifted student of Albrecht Dürer. Throughout his lifetime, Baldung developed a distinctive style, full of color, expression and imagination. His talents were varied, and he produced a great and extensive variety of work including portraits, woodcuts, altarpieces, drawings, tapestries, allegories and mythological motifs.

Hans Holbein the Younger German artist and printmaker

Hans Holbein the Younger was a German painter and printmaker who worked in a Northern Renaissance style, and is considered one of the greatest portraitists of the 16th century. He also produced religious art, satire, and Reformation propaganda, and he made a significant contribution to the history of book design. He is called "the Younger" to distinguish him from his father Hans Holbein the Elder, an accomplished painter of the Late Gothic school.

Roald Dahl British novelist, short story writer, poet, fighter pilot and screenwriter

Roald Dahl was a British novelist, short story writer, poet, screenwriter, and fighter pilot. His books have sold more than 250 million copies worldwide.

Vanitas type of symbolic work of art

A vanitas is a symbolic work of art showing the transience of life, the futility of pleasure, and the certainty of death, often contrasting symbols of wealth and symbols of ephemerality and death. Best-known are vanitas still lifes, a common genre in Netherlandish art of the 16th and 17th centuries; they have also been created at other times and in other media and genres.

Skull and crossbones (symbol) Poison warning sign

A skull and crossbones or death's head is a symbol consisting of a human skull and two long bones crossed together under or behind the skull. The design originates in the Late Middle Ages as a symbol of death and especially as a memento mori on tombstones.

<i>The Triumph of Death</i> Painting by Pieter Bruegel the Elder

The Triumph of Death is an oil panel painting by Pieter Bruegel the Elder painted c. 1562. It has been in the Museo del Prado in Madrid since 1827.

Gothic art Style of Medieval art developed in Northern France

Gothic art was a style of medieval art that developed in Northern France out of Romanesque art in the 12th century AD, led by the concurrent development of Gothic architecture. It spread to all of Western Europe, and much of Southern and Central Europe, never quite effacing more classical styles in Italy. In the late 14th century, the sophisticated court style of International Gothic developed, which continued to evolve until the late 15th century. In many areas, especially Germany, Late Gothic art continued well into the 16th century, before being subsumed into Renaissance art. Primary media in the Gothic period included sculpture, panel painting, stained glass, fresco and illuminated manuscripts. The easily recognizable shifts in architecture from Romanesque to Gothic, and Gothic to Renaissance styles, are typically used to define the periods in art in all media, although in many ways figurative art developed at a different pace.

<i>Danse macabre</i> (Saint-Saëns) tone poem written by Camille Saint-Saëns

Danse macabre, Op. 40, is a tone poem for orchestra, written in 1874 by the French composer Camille Saint-Saëns. It is in the key of G minor. It started out in 1872 as an art song for voice and piano with a French text by the poet Henri Cazalis, which is based on an old French superstition. In 1874, the composer expanded and reworked the piece into a tone poem, replacing the vocal line with a solo violin part.

<i>Ars moriendi</i> 15th century Latin texts

The Ars moriendi are two related Latin texts dating from about 1415 and 1450 which offer advice on the protocols and procedures of a good death, explaining how to "die well" according to Christian precepts of the late Middle Ages. It was written within the historical context of the effects of the macabre horrors of the Black Death 60 years earlier and consequent social upheavals of the 15th century. It was very popular, translated into most West European languages, and was the first in a western literary tradition of guides to death and dying. About 50,000 copies were printed in the incunabula period before 1501.

Bernt Notke German painter and sculptor

Bernt Notke  was a late Gothic artist, working in the Baltic region. He has been described as one of the foremost artists of his time in northern Europe.

<i>La Grande Danse Macabre</i> 2001 studio album by Marduk

La Grande Danse Macabre is the seventh studio album by Swedish black metal band Marduk. It was recorded and mixed at The Abyss in December 2000 and released on March 5, 2001, by Regain Records. La Grande Danse Macabre is the last Marduk album with Fredrik Andersson on drums.

<i>Death and the Maiden</i> (motif) art motive

Death and the Maiden was a common motif in Renaissance art, especially painting and prints in Germany. The usual form shows just two figures, with a young woman being seized by a personification of Death, often shown as a skeleton. Variants may include other figures. It developed from the Danse Macabre with an added erotic subtext. The German artist Hans Baldung depicted it several times.

St. Nicholas Church, Tallinn Church in Tallinn, Estonia

St. Nicholas' Church is a medieval former church in Tallinn, Estonia. It was dedicated to Saint Nicholas, the patron of the fishermen and sailors. Originally built in the 13th century, it was partially destroyed in the Soviet bombing of Tallinn in World War II. It has since been restored and today houses a branch of the Art Museum of Estonia, focusing mainly on ecclesiastical art from the Middle Ages onward. The former church is also used as a concert hall.

Black Death in medieval culture

The Black Death in medieval culture includes the impact of the Black Death (1347–1350) on art and literature throughout the generation that experienced it.

Visual arts art forms that create works that are primarily visual in nature

The visual arts are art forms such as painting, drawing, printmaking, sculpture, ceramics, photography, video, filmmaking, design, crafts, and architecture. Many artistic disciplines involve aspects of the visual arts as well as arts of other types. Also included within the visual arts are the applied arts such as industrial design, graphic design, fashion design, interior design and decorative art.

Spreuer Bridge

The Spreuer Bridge is one of two extant covered wooden footbridges in the city of Lucerne, Switzerland. Besides the other preserved bridge, the Kapellbrücke, a third bridge of this type – the Hofbrücke – existed in Lucerne, but was demolished in the 19th century.

Roald Dahl bibliography The books written by Roald Dahl

Roald Dahl (1916–1990) was a British author and scriptwriter, and "the most popular writer of children's books since Enid Blyton", according to Philip Howard, the literary editor of The Times. He was raised by his Norwegian mother, who took him on annual trips to Norway, where she told him the stories of trolls and witches present in the dark Scandinavian fables. Dahl was influenced by the stories, and returned to many of the themes in his children's books. His mother also nurtured a passion in the young Dahl for reading and literature.

Danse Macabre is a painting by Bernt Notke. A fragment of the late fifteenth-century painting, originally some 30 meters wide, is displayed in the St. Nicholas Church, Tallinn.

References

  1. "Roald Dahl Day: From Tales of the Unexpected to Switch Bitch, Dahl's undervalued stories for adults". The Independent. 14 October 2017.
  2. See Du Cange, Gloss., s.v. Machabaeorum chora.
  3. Romania, xxiv., 131; 1895.
  4. The Shorter Oxford English Dictionary (Fifth edition; 2002) states that the origin of "macabre" perhaps has reference to "a miracle play containing the slaughter of the Maccabees." Volume 1, p. 1659.