Les simulachres & historiees faces de la mort

Lützelburger and Holbein’s Images of Death series was always intended to illustrate a printed book. The devotional texts were written by the French poets Nicholas Bourbon (whose portrait by Holbein is also on view) and Jean de Vauzelles or Gilles Corrozet. The introduction states that several of the blocks were incomplete when Lützelburger died. The printers failed to find a blockcutter of equal ability to complete the images (ultimately hiring a less skilled artist), which is why the book was not published until 1538, twelve years after Lützelburger’s death. Nevertheless, the edition was hugely successful and reprinted in Lyon into the 1560s. Holbein’s compositions were copied by dozens of printers and artists across Europe into the nineteenth century.

Les simulachres & historiees faces de la mort (The simulated and illustrated faces of death)
Woodcuts by Hans Lützelburger (1495?–1526), after designs by Hans Holbein the Younger (1497/98–1543)
Lyon: Melchior and Gaspar Trechsel for Jean and François Frellon, 1538

The Morgan Library & Museum, purchased with the De Forest collection, 1899; PML 2112
The Morgan Library & Museum, purchased by J. Pierpont Morgan by 1905; PML 2113