Albrecht Dürer

An original Albrecht Dürer Woodcut print.


Original woodcut printed in black ink on laid paper bearing the Fish Bladder watermark (Meder 309).

Signed with the artist’s monogram on a tablet in the block lower right.

A fine 16th century Meder “d” (of g) impression printed after the Latin Edition of 1511, circa 1580, bearing no letterpress text on the verso. One of 20 woodcuts (frontispiece and 19 plates) issued in the album The Life of the Virgin.

Catalog: Bartsch 91; Kurth 189; Meder 203.d; Panofsky 311; Strauss 77; Schoch/Mende/Scherbaum 181.

11 3/4 x 8 1/4 inches

The scene is based on Luke 2:42-50: “Now his parents went to Jerusalem every year at the feast of Passover. And when he was twelve years old, they went to Jerusalem according to the custom of the feast. And when they returned, the young Christ tarried behind in Jerusalem, and Joseph and his mother knew not of it . . . but when they found him not, they turned back again to Jerusalem, seeking him. And when after three days they found him in the Temple, sitting amidst of the teachers, both hearing them and asking them questions. And all that heard him were amazed at his understanding and answers. And when they saw him, they were astonished and his mother said to him, Child, why did you do thus to us? See your father and I have been looking for you, worrying. And he said to them, Why have you been looking for me? Did you not know that I must be in my Father’s house?”

Although by no means one of the earliest sheets of the series, Dürer continued to experiment. The surprisingly large onlookers are placed in the foreground, whereas the action occurs in the rear of the chamber. The Virgin is shown as she enters from the left. Thus the uninitiated eye is almost drawn to her – the subject of the series – last. The architectural setting is “strange and fanciful,” and a “flamboyant Gothic throne is placed in a more or less ‘Romanesque’ interior, overhung by two garlands of the purest North Italian Renaissance style.” It seems as if Dürer attempted to create the impression of a crowd with only a few men, all of them attentively listening to the twelve-year old Jesus explaining the law. Only the Virgin’s thoughts are elsewhere, her hands folded in prayer – she has not yet discovered Christ and her entourage has not yet entered the hall.