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Picture This The Dance of Death by Martin Rowson

More mordant mirth from the master satirist

IN THIS benighted age, with a host of deplorable characters blazing their hideous trails across the heavens, there are apparently few things in which we can take solace.

Yet one enduring comfort is – and has always been – that one day, sooner or later, death will come knocking at [insert name of terrible person here]’s door and put a stop to their dreadful designs.

Whether in the form of cancer, cardiac arrest, falling masonry or over-enthusiastic perusal of “classic literature,” the grim reaper will have its way in the end, though he seems to be taking his sweet time with some.

This fact — the essential impermanence of a human being — has clearly vexed us since the beginning of time and it certainly vexes cartoonist Martin Rowson in his latest magnum opus The Dance of Death.

From Sisyphus to Lord Voldemort, our stories are littered with people who try, and ultimately fail, to cheat the grim reaper. It’s never ended terribly well for them.

Hans Holbein the Younger (1497–1543) clearly relished the prospect of demise and in a series of woodcuts entitled The Dance of Death depicted a host of people — priest, knight, scholar, merchant, peasant, king — caught unawares by death, appearing as a skeleton about to hurl them under the proverbial bus, or rather the harrow, of their expiration.

Holbein’s macabre collection has been given an amusing update by Rowson, who’s altered the actors in that gruesome drama to editor, politician, journalist, oligarch, poet, academic — and even cartoonist.

Except, of course, for one. The likes of Henry Kissinger, Nigel Lawson, Toby Young, Jacob Rees-Mogg, Stephen Yaxley Lennon and Donald Trump are all accompanied by the great leveller.

This highly amusing collection of intricate and acerbic cartoons is each accompanied by one of Rowson’s inimitably witty and unsentimental stanzas such as: “Those who think they’re Good and Great/All bleat the same old lie/Until they find out far too late/ They DO shit and WILL DIE.”

The Dance of Death is published by SelfMade Hero, £9.99.


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