Awkward First Kiss: Death and the Maiden

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Hans Baldung, Death and the Maiden, 1545
Awkward First Kiss
By ELIZABETH ELLIS

We’ve all been there before: you’re dancing in the club, having a good time, when you feel some drunk guy start grinding into you from behind and grabbing at you to the beat of DJ Khalid’s new single, “I’m the One.” Your mood plummets from a twelve to about a three as you get pushed off the dance floor by the guy’s enthusiastic hip thrusts. Now imagine this time you turn around and the guy is a strangely muscular zombie-man with Trump hair and the dance floor isn’t a poorly lit room with a mass of writhing bodies but a desolate graveyard and your sequin dress has turned into a white sheet.

This is what life is like for the young girl in Death and the Maiden. Death has appeared behind her and starts to pull her into the grave burial place at the right bottom corner of the painting. Death tangles his hand in her hair to tip her face back and give her the kiss of death. He gropes at the skin by her breast which shows the tainting of the maiden’s innocent life by the plague and death spreading through Europe. As Death starts grabbing her, he grabs at the life within her as well. Her skin turns pallid and as pale as the bed sheet she wears around her waist. Her body seems to weaken from his grasp and her limbs go akimbo as she collapses. The emotional and physical turmoil within the maiden manifests itself as the bloody tears that leak down her face. This image of death and a maiden stems from the myth of the abduction of Persephone by Hades. Hades, god of the underworld, appeared from a crevice where Persephone had plucked a flower and took her to the underworld. The influence from the myth is plainly seen, as Death embodied tries to drag the young girl into her grave with his romantic advances.

For all the girls out there, remember, the  next time a guy is trying to hit it from behind in the club and fistbump you in the back of the head, he could be a ripped tan death zombie with surfer hair trying to pull you into a grave and you could be a maiden in the 1500s Germany, afraid of dying of the plague before you reach fifteen years old. So take that dude outside and bodyslam’em into an open grave.

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