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Final Farewell: The Culture of Death and the Afterlife

Funerals, Burials and Mourning

back to Funerals, Burial & Mourning section homeMourning WearMourning AccessoriesThe Funeral Tomb of the Old White KingAt Durer's Grave(Approaching the Guillotine)James & Lonise BiasLenin at the Palladiumto Final Farewell exhibition beginning

The Splendors of the Tomb of the Old White KingThe Splendors of the Tomb of the Old White King

Leonard Beck was a painter, illuminator, illustrator, and printmaker from Augsburg, in what was the Germanic region of the Holy Roman Empire. This woodcut was most likely commissioned by Maximilian I (1459–1519) to celebrate the reign of the Habsburg family over the Holy Roman Empire. The name “Old White King” refers to Frederick III (1415–1493), who was Maximilian’s father.

Leonard Beck
(German, ca. 1480-1542)
The Splendors of the Tomb of the Old White King
ca. 1513-18
Woodcut
(76.64)

Elaborately sculpted, highly decorated tombs have been commissioned for royalty throughout history, most often by the individual whose corpse would rest there. Located in St. Stephen’s Cathedral (Vienna, Austria) and carved by the renowned sculptor Niclaes Gerhaert van Leyden, Frederick III’s tomb took forty-five years to complete, starting twenty-five years before his death. Beck has provided an artistic interpretation of the tomb and its surroundings rather than portraying the space accurately. His composition follows Renaissance stylistic conventions that emphasize symmetry and linear perspective. The lid shows the emperor in his coronation regalia surrounded by the coats of arms of his dominions. The Holy Roman Emperors’ coat of arms hangs above him. The lit candles commemorate his death and symbolize the immortality of the spirit.

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