Danse Macabre, also known as "Dance of Death," is one of most interesting genres of art because of what it stands for. The Dance of Death is painted as a reminder of that the touch of death afflicts us all at some point - from the richest of kings to the lowest criminals. Death takes us all in the end, and the Danse Macabre depicts just that. The art depicts a personified death, dancing or leading people to the grave. In a lot of cases, the living that were portrayed in the paintings were emperors, kings, popes, and even children. These paintings are what's called memento mori, which are pieces of art used to be symbolic of our own mortality. The Dance of Death is a reminder of how thin the veil is between the living and the dead, and just how fragile our very own lives are.
It is believed that the first representation of Danse Macabre was in 1424/1425 in a now lost mural that was in the Saints Innocents Cemetery in Paris (a cemetery which housed a lot of mass graves, interestingly enough). Death surrounded the 14th century, so it almost makes sense that from it, this macabre form of art was birthed. The Black Plague was overtaking Europe - combine that with famines and the Hundred Years War in France, and you've got death literally everywhere. It was just the right time for Dance of Death art to flourish. With skeletons playing the role of Death, the paintings share both the emotions of amusement and sorrow - since on one hand, you have a final dance with death at the end, and on the other, that dance means the end.
Dance of Death artwork has continued through the years, and it is present in even more pop culture than you might imagine! Many people will be familiar with "The Skeleton Dance," a Walt Disney cartoon from 1929 that uses a lot of danse macabre art (if you haven't seen it, definitely take a second to watch the short animation, it's pretty awesome). Danse macabre is also seen throughout modern day video games like Fable III and Devil May Cry 3, as well as television shows, novels, and even songs.
Dance of Death artwork can be interpreted differently by whoever is viewing it, but one thing is certain - the message is clear that Death is here, Death reigns, and in the end, all we have is Death. No matter where your background is, we all share the same mortal ending, and it is this universal connection that in a weirdly beautiful way, connects us all. Danse macabre is meant to remind you just how precious and short life really is, so hopefully next time you see the Dance of death portrayed in whatever fashion you come across it, you can take a moment to appreciate the fact that we are all just dust in the wind.