Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Lovers Surprised by Death

I came across this image while doing research for a project last year. I like the narrative behind this story: two lovers suddenly taken by death. While death (the skeleton) tears at the man’s face, he also clutches the woman’s dress in his mouth. I enjoy the way this artist represented his subject: it is literally death surprising a couple. Although it is quite literal, this is an interesting solution for representing the story. The other thing that appealed to me about this piece is that it is really beautiful and detailed. 
This image is a woodcut print, and when I researched it further I found that it is actually one of the first chiaroscuro woodcuts, which means that it used more than one color. There would have been three different woodcuts for this image, in three different colors that were layered on top of each other: one in pink, another in light grey and another in darker grey. This technique gives the piece beauty and depth.
This image was created in 1510, and death was a common subject in this time period in late medieval art. Hans Burgkmair was known for book illustrations; however, chiaroscuro prints were mostly created for prints rather than book illustrations. I think this is a very effective illustration of the subject because it is both beautiful and interesting, and even without knowing the title, it is quite an effective way of representing death. It was probably meant to frighten the viewer into realizing that death can come at any time.

1 comment:

  1. Thanks for including an oldie! This is quite a gorgeous and disturbing piece - gotta love that contrast and perspective. It was definitely more common to personify and translate ideas literally then.