The dance of Death 1914-1918 Death marches

Place Europe: Western Front
Accession Number ART50277
Collection type Art
Measurement Overall: 20.1 x 25 cm (plate); 26.4 x 33.4 cm (sheet)
Object type Print
Physical description etching
Maker Smith, Percy
Place made United Kingdom: England
Date made 1920
Conflict First World War, 1914-1918

Item copyright: Copyright expired - public domain

Public Domain Mark This item is in the Public Domain


No. 2 from a portfolio of 7 etchings titled 'The dance of Death', features Death as a tangible image hovering ominously over the battlefield. The concept of dance of Death imagery began as a medieval allegory on the universality of death and the all-conquering and equalising power of death.
In this etching 'Death marches', a column of British troops are marching along a road in strict formation, and are seen from a slightly elevated angle. Marching alongside them, along the top of a wall is Death, personified as a skeleton wrapped in a cloak, a patient figure keeping pace with the soldiers and awaiting the inevitable death that war shall bring.
Percy Smith was a painter, calligrapher and book designer. He began to etch in 1913. He served as a gunner in the Royal Marine Artillery on the Somme during the First World War. He surreptitiously made drawings of his war experiences while at the Front and because of this was arrested twice as a spy. Etching plates were smuggled out to him between the pages of magazines.