Manuel and the Renaissance

Dance of Death. Photo: Bernisches Historisches Museum

Inspired by Niklaus Manuel’s (1484-1530) work, the Bernese artists Jared Muralt (1982) and Balts Nill (1953) have created a re-interpretation of the Bernese Dance of Death and published it in an intricate concertina-folded Dance of Death. The exhibition Bernese Dance of Death displays the story of the creation of the  Dance of Death now and then and how discussions about death are as relevant today as they were 500 years ago.

Manuel was born in Germany (he called himself Niklaus Manuel Deutsch), but lived in Bern, where he married into a powerful family in 1509. Manuel had a typical renaissance career: painter, diplomat, soldier, politician, writer, poet and became a devoted protestant. Printing, the discovery of America and the Indies, the Renaissance and the Reformation shaped this time of upheaval at the end of the 15th and beginning of the 16th centuries. The exhibition Mercenary, Iconoclast and Dancer of Death (Söldner, Bilderstürmer und Tötentänzer) in the same museum follows the life of Niklaus Manuel from mercenary to statesman, from artist to iconoclast.