- Museum number
Group of figures, including a pope, a cardinal, a bishop and a king, meeting three skeletons, formerly in an album
Pen and black ink
- Production date
Height: 127 millimetres
Width: 202 millimetres
- Curator's comments
- Summary of J.Rowlands, 'Drawings by German Artists and Artists from German-speaking regions of Europe in the Department of Prints and Drawings at the British Museum: the Fifteenth Century, and the Sixteenth Century by Artists born before 1530', London, BM Press, 1993, no. 108:
'The subject of this drawing is a variant of the tale of the Three Living (or Quick) and Three Dead, a popular medieval legend in which three young kings out hunting meet three dead kings, who greet them, saying 'What you are, that we were, what we are, that you will be'. The earliest sources in Europe of this tale, apparently of oriental origin, are from Italy, where it was known from the twelfth century. In France, two poems entitled 'Li Trois Mors et li Trois Vifs' were written in the thirteenth century by Baudouin de Condé and Nicolas de Marginal and were first illustrated c. 1300 (see Raimond van Marie, 'Iconographie de l'Art profane au Moyen Age et à la Renaissance - allégories et symboles', The Hague, 1932, pp. 383f.). By the end of the fifteenth century the subject had become linked with the more powerful theme of the Dance of Death.
Colvin thought that the drawing was executed in the manner of Hans Burgkmair (q.v.) and that it was done by one of his followers as a projected design for a book-illustration. Falk's attribution of the drawing to Cranach, published by Koepplin, is more convincing, especially on a comparison with woodcuts in the 'Wittenberger Heiligtumsbuch' of 1509 (Hollstein, vi, pp. 72ff., no. 96, repr.). Koepplin and Falk compared this drawing with the woodcut of St Wolfgang from this series (Basel, 'Cranach', ii, p. 468, fig. 256a), in which the crabbed features of the saint mirror those of the pope in the drawing to a remarkable extent. The drawing's incisive pen-work, also goes well with the vigorous drawing of St Margaret, dated 1513, at Dessau (Staatliche Galerie; Rosenberg, pl. 20). Although this latter drawing is a repetition of the woodcut of the saint in the Heiligtumsbuch of 1509, with the addition of a landscape background, the spontaneity of its execution leaves one little reason to doubt that it was executed by Cranach. This type of pen-work is however, not commonly seen among Cranach's surviving drawings, and, as the basis for an attribution of 1892,0804.23 to Cranach, it is rather slender albeit persuasive. For this reason, the sheet remains attributed to the artist.'
Lit from Rowlands: S. Colvin, Prussian Jahrbuch, xiv, 1893, p. 166; D. Koepplin, Kunstchronik, xxv, 1972, p. 347; Basel, Cranach, ii, p. 469, no. 309, repr.; BM Dürer and Holbein, p. 173, no. 143, repr.
- Not on display
- Exhibition history
1988, July-Oct, BM, Age of Dürer & Holbein, no. 143
- Acquisition date
- Acquisition notes
- For the album see 1892,0804.8; Formerly in the 1637 album, see Ilja M. Veldman, "Portrait of an art collector: Pieter Spiering van Silvercroon" Simiolus 38:4 (2015/16): 243.
- Prints and Drawings
- Registration number