Death as a Strangler, 1851

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The strains of Death's bony violin have lulled the revelers at a masked ball into a permanent sleep, but the other musicians scramble for the exit. The image is an allegory of a cholera epidemic that struck Paris in 1831. The outbreak killed 20,000 of the city's 650,000 inhabitants. After several years as a highly successful painter of major public commissions, Alfred Rethel's intermittent bouts of mental illness led him to devote himself to the less-pressured activity of printmaking. In his new field he closely studied the work of his German forebears, including Hans Holbein, whose miniature studies of Death appear in this gallery.

Death as a Strangler
Artist Life
1816 - 1859
Accession Number
[Emil Hirsch, Munich and New York, until d. 1954]; [By descent, his son-in-law, Hellmuth Wallach, New York, 1954-1957; sold June 14, with "Death as Friend" (P.12,579), for $95, to Mia]
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