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The Dance of Death

By Martin Rowson

Hardback, 88 pp, £9.99

Hans Holbein's 16th-century masterpiece, The Dance of Death, reminds its readers that no one, no matter their rank or position, can escape the great leveller, Death. In a foreboding series of woodcuts, Death, depicted as a skeleton, intrudes on the lives of people from every level of society, from the sailor to the judge, the ploughman to the king. By highlighting our common fate, Holbein exposes the folly of greed and ambition, and in doing so brings a corrupt and callous elite crashing back down to earth.

In this darkly satirical update, Guardian cartoonist Martin Rowson sharpens and reshapes Holbein's vision for the 21st century. Death seizes the City banker by his braces and offers a light to the oligarch; it joins the surgeon in theatre and the Hollywood star on the red carpet. Filled with wit and doom-laden drama, Martin Rowson's The Dance of Death is a masterful reimagining of a book which, in its uncompromising treatment of the rich and powerful, paved the way for the great, levelling craft of political cartooning.

Martin Rowson

Martin Rowson is an award-winning cartoonist whose work has appeared regularly in The Guardian, the Daily Mirror, the Independent on Sunday, The Times, The Spectator, the Morning Star, Tribune, New Humanist and many other publications. His first novel, Snatches, was published by Jonathan Cape, as was his memoir Stuff, which was longlisted for the Samuel Johnson Prize. Other books include an anti-Dawkins, anti-Hitchens, anti-God rant, The Dog Allusion, and Fuck: The Human Odyssey, a history of the world in 67 beautiful (if foulmouthed) images. He is also a vice-president of the Zoological Society of London, the chairman of the British Cartoonists’ Association, an honorary associate of The National Secular Society and was once Ken Livingstone’s Cartoonist Laureate for London (in return for one pint of London Pride bitter per annum – now eight years in arrears). He lives in south-east London with his wife and (occasionally) their two children.


"This is one of the most charming graphic books it has ever been my privilege to review and it left me with a smile on my face."
— Phenomena Mag
"This highly amusing collection of intricate and acerbic cartoons is each accompanied by one of Rowson’s inimitably witty and unsentimental stanzas."
— The Morning Star