Albrecht Dürer, ‘Christ on the Cross (B. 24; M., Holl. 23; S.M.S. 61)’, 1508, Christie's Old Masters

Engraving, 1508, with part of a High Crown watermark, a brilliant, rich and dark Meder a impression, printing with burr and a light plate tone in places, trimmed to the subject, the blank tip of the upper right sheet corner made up, a tiny repaired tear at upper left, generally in good condition.

This Crucifixion of 1508 is the most impassioned of Dürer's several representations of the subject and marks a turning point in the stylistic development of his engravings, a distinction it shares with Christ on the Mount of Olives and the Betrayal of Christ from the Engraved Passion (lot 36). All three prints are nocturnes, which, as Panofsky observed, 'was usual in representations of the Betrayal, but rare in renderings of the Gethsemane scene and the Crucifixion, and altogether a novelty in prints.' The means of representing darkness worked hand in hand with the principles and technique of chiaroscuro as they were applied by Dürer to engraving. Deeper tones of the shadows derive from cross-hatching, while the brightest highlights appear wherever the unengraved surface of the plate is wiped clean. The silvery modulation of the light coupled with the strong illumination of the figures standing in the half-darkness conveys the unmistakable appearance of a scene lit by the moon.

Comparable to the Salting impression in the British Museum, which prints slightly stronger in places but is colder in character and less fine.

About Albrecht Dürer

Considered one of the foremost artists of the Renaissance period, Albrecht Dürer’s extensive work in printmaking transformed the categorization of the medium from craft to fine art. Often depicting religious subjects, Dürer’s woodcuts and engravings demonstrated unprecedented technical skill, tonal variation, and compositional sophistication. Dürer theorized extensively on linear perspective and anatomical proportion, concerns that were articulated in a vast body of written work as well as in his paintings and prints. Dürer’s skill earned him the role of court artist for Holy Roman Emperors Maximilian I and Charles V, under whom he created a number of paintings and altarpieces. Dürer’s series of self-portraits, created throughout his career, represent some of his most iconic works.

German, 1471-1528, Nuremberg, Germany, based in Nuremberg, Germany