Predikerkirche, copy J.R. Feyerabend, Totentanz 1806. Photo: TES.

Basler Dance of Death

The Basler Totentanz fits into an expression from the beginning of the fifteenth century, the period of plague, war, hunger, the schism of the papacy, and probably originated from literature and poems about death.

These images were particularly common in the German-speaking regions of southern Germany, Switzerland, Alsace and western Austria. In 1773, 32 years before its destruction, the topographer Emanuel Büchel (1705-1775) recorded the Basler Totentanz image by image in an album. Johann Rudolf Feyerabend (1779-1814) recorded the Totentanz in watercolour based on previous copies in 1806.

For this reason, there is a reasonably accurate picture of this work. Only a few fragments of the original have been preserved, which can be seen in the Historical Museum on the Barfüsserplatz in Basel. (Source: F. Egger, Basler Totentanz, Basel 2009).