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Death as Juggler (Revolution) (Tod als Jongleur [Revolution])

Christian Rohlfs

European Art

In Christian Rohlfs’s roughly hewn, unsettling woodcut, two women recoil from a skeleton juggling symbols of earthly power—an orb, a scepter, and a crown. The image is a reference to the danse macabre, or dance of death, a common medieval pictorial motif that served as a reminder that death is inevitable and impartial, coming for all regardless of class. Rohlfs likely found renewed purpose for the theme in the wake of World War I.

Rohlfs made his first prints at the age of sixty after seeing an exhibition of Die Brücke (The Bridge) artists in 1908. He worked almost exclusively in woodcut, hand-printing his own blocks, sometimes not in a press but by applying pressure to the sheet with a heavy object, and experimenting with different inks to make unique or variant impressions.

In 1937 the Nazis expelled Rohlfs from the Prussian Academy of Arts, condemned him as degenerate, and removed 412 of his works from public collections.
MEDIUM Color woodcut in yellow, red, and black on heavy wove paper
  • Place Made: Germany
  • DATES 1918–1919
    DIMENSIONS Image: 14 3/8 x 18 1/4 in. (36.5 x 46.4 cm) Sheet: 17 5/16 x 21 in. (44 x 53.3 cm)  (show scale)
    SIGNATURE Signed, "Chr. Rohlfs" lower right in pencil
    INSCRIPTIONS Lower right in graphite: "Chr. Rohlfs"
    COLLECTIONS European Art
    CREDIT LINE A. Augustus Healy Fund
    MUSEUM LOCATION This item is not on view
    CAPTION Christian Rohlfs (German, 1849–1939). Death as Juggler (Revolution) (Tod als Jongleur [Revolution]), 1918–1919. Color woodcut in yellow, red, and black on heavy wove paper, Image: 14 3/8 x 18 1/4 in. (36.5 x 46.4 cm). Brooklyn Museum, A. Augustus Healy Fund, 65.23.6 (Photo: , 65.23.6_PS9.jpg)
    IMAGE overall, 65.23.6_PS9.jpg., 2019
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