Coffin Calendar Girls: A New Take on an Old Trope

Christina Welch



This paper explores a recent manifestation of the Death and the Maiden art genre through an analysis of coffin calendar art. ‘Death and the Maiden’, in Northern European art, generally features a young woman alone in the company of Death. This genre of art has a long history and the early images portrayed Death as a predatory male. The first of these dates to the proto-Reformation artist, Albrecht Dürer (1471-1528). His ‘Young Woman Attacked by Death (The Ravisher)’ (c. 1495) clearly situates Death as a male sexual predator, and this theme can be seen in the contemporary artworks of Hans Baldung (alias Grien) (c1484-1545), Niklaus Manuel (Deutsch) (c1484-1530), and Hans Sebald Beham (1500-1550); these proto-Reformist (prior to 1517)/early-Reformist (post 1517) artists  produced erotic images in this genre which typically situated the maiden as a young fecund woman, and Death as a letch, either and most often imaged as a decomposing body, or occasionally an expressive skeleton.

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ISSN: 2202-2546

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