The transience of life was a major theme for writers and artists in the 16th and 17th centuries, and in the lives of everyday men and women death and mortality were a tangible presence. To illustrate the inevitability of death, the Middle Ages had developed the danse macabre, a succession of scenes in which people of all ages and walks of life are taken unawares by death and enjoined to follow him. Such Totentänze were especially popular in German speaking territories, and a series of woodcuts after Holbein the Younger were widely disseminated - one of which is the inspiration for this print. The clothes are those of Holbein's time, and the woman holds a flower, a standard symbol for the brevity of life. Saskia may have been the model for this figure.