Albrecht Dürer

An original Albrecht Dürer Etching.


Original iron plate etching printed in black ink on laid paper.

Dated and signed in the plate with the artist’s monogram lower center.

A dark, richly printed 16th century Meder “b” (of e) impression of the second and final state. Showing traces of rust stains from areas of the plate which were handled, printed circa 1550.

Catalog: Bartsch 19; Dodgson 82; Meder 19 II.b; Panofsky 126; Hollstein 19.b; Strauss 82; Schoch/Mende/Scherbaum 80.

Size: 8 x 6 3/8 inches

From the supper room in Jerusalem, Jesus and his disciples went out into the night to the quiet grove of olive trees called Gethsemani on the western slope of Mount Olivet.  Taking Peter, James and John, witnesses of his transfiguration in glory, he withdrew deeper into the garden.  They would witness now his fear and hear his anxious prayer.
Going on alone, a stone’s throw away, Jesus fell upon the ground and began to pray a doleful prayer: "Abba, Father, all things are possible to you; remove this cup from me. Yet not my will but yours be done." (Mark 14:36)  So troubled and distressed had he become by what he saw before him – a brutal death – that "his sweat became like drops of blood falling to the ground". (Luke 22:43) Returning three times to seek his disciples’ support, he found them asleep.
In Dürer’s enterpretation of this Biblical passage Christ’s struggle is already over.  He seems to be staring at the cup.  The disciples are far in the background.  The Savior kneels, untouched by the raging storm; only his hands, ready to receive the chalice, reveal emotion.
This is one of only six etchings that Dürer produced, all of them between c. 1515 and 1518.  Early etchers often experienced difficulties in using iron plates, as here, which rusted quickly, and in controlling the acid for etching the design into the plate.  These problems must have frustrated Dürer, who was so accomplished with the engraver’s burin, and may have deterred him from experimenting further with the technique.