Death and the Maiden

Via ‘The Institute’

DEATH AND THE MAIDEN. Tracing its roots to the Great Mortality and scenes of the danse macabre that became popular in the late Middle Ages and Renaissance, the motif of “Death and the Maiden” added an element of eroticism to the usual figures being led to their deaths by skeletons and rotting corpses.

Although well known for its later use by Franz Schubert and Edvard Munch, a lesser-known development was brought to wider attention after the Franco-Prussian War by refugees from Alsace-Lorraine. This form of Death and the Maiden involved a ritual performance in which the Maiden danced about Death, represented by a suit of armour, and removed the armour piece by piece revealing that there was nothing inside, thus making a mockery of Death itself.


Here is pictured Venenia Primigenia-Gluck, one of the Vestal Virgins of the Temple of Vesta located in Meeteetse, Wyoming, performing the dance of Death and the Maiden at the Institute headquarters in Los Angeles in 1921.

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