Pilate Washing his Hands

Albrecht Dürer
Pilate Washing his Hands

An original Albrecht Dürer engraving.


Original engraving printed in black ink on laid paper.

Dated and signed with the artist’s monogram in the plate upper right.

A superb 16th century/lifetime Meder “a” (of “c”) impression, printed with rich contrasts throughout, the architecture jet-black.  One of fifteen plates comprising the Engraved Passion.

Catalog: Bartsch 11; Dodgson 60; Panofsky 118; Meder 11.a; Strauss 63; Schoch/Mende/Scherbaum 53

The Engraved Passion is composed of fifteen engravings.  Five were engraved between 1507 and 1511 and the remaining ten in 1512. Unlike the woodcut books, the Passion engravings were not accompanied by text, but from Dürer’s Netherlands diary, we know that he customarily sold them as a set. Dürer’s engravings are more somber and restrained in their presentation of Christ’s passion than either the large or small woodcut versions.  The fineness of the engraved lines enabled Dürer to suggest in these scenes an almost spiritual light. The same fineness also made possible a greater exploration of facial expression, thereby expanding psychological dimensions.

The Engraved Passion scenes have a compelling forthrightness and grandeur owing to the prominence of the participants who occupy most of the available space. The consistent placement of the figures in the foreground unifies the series. 

In this engraving Golgotha is shown in the background.  Attention is drawn primarily to the young man pouring water and clad in a most peculiar costume.  The Moorish features of this young man are akin to some examples in Dürer’s Dresden Sketchbook.