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Storytelling in Miniature

Hans Sebald Beham
German, 1500–1550

Wedding Dancers, from “Peasant Festival or The Twelve Months”

Engraving, 1546
1 15/16 x 2 13/16 in.
Gift of Carl B. Spitzer, 1938.57

This print is the fourth image in a series of 10 engravings. The first six images in the set each show two active couples, often dancing. Above each couple is a name based on one of the twelve months. Inscribed above the dancing couple on the left is Jacob Newmon (Jacob July), and above the walking pair on the right is Laurencius Augstmon (Laurencius August).

The remaining four prints in the set show groups of people feasting, fighting, love-making, and starting over again at the New Year. Regardless of the activity, the depiction of peasants enjoying a brief period of frivolity has been interpreted as favorable and sympathetic to a group that was often maligned. Only 21 years before this print was engraved, the Peasants’ War in Germany, a popular uprising, resulted in the death of more than 100,000.