Albrecht Dürer
c. 1505

An original Albrecht Dürer Woodcut print.

c. 1505

Original woodcut printed in black ink on laid paper.

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

A strong, dark 16th century/lifetime impression from the Latin Edition of 1511, with Latin letterpress text on the verso. One of 20 woodcuts (frontispiece and 19 plates) issued in the album The Life of the Virgin.

Catalog: Bartsch 86; Kurth 184; Meder 198; Panofsky 306; Strauss 98; Schoch/Mende/Scherbaum 176.

11 3/4 x 8 1/8 inches

In Dürer’s time the “New Year” was celebrated on December 25th, Christ’s birthday. Therefore, the first day of January was merely the Feast Day of Christ’s Circumcision. In Dürer’s woodcut, the action is shifted toward the right, strikingly counterbalanced by the single figure of a man on the left, bearing a great, tall, braided candle. He casts a backward glance, as he strides forward, symbolizing the coming of the new creed. The Virgin looks dejected – it is the first of the Seven Sorrows – while St. Joseph – with them seeks to calm her. The woman next to the candle bearer may be Hannah.

The vanishing point is here shifted to the extreme side, enhancing the illusion of proximity and conveying to the beholder a feeling that he is present in the chamber. Moses the law-giver and Judith, a prefiguration of Mary, are pictured in the twining tracery of the background, together with the Lion of Judah, and an infant, symbolic of the Messiah. Note how one branch surrounds the circular window.