Albrecht Dürer, ‘Christ on the Mount of Olives (B., M., Holl. 19; S.M.S. 80)’, 1515, Christie's Old Masters

Etching, 1515, without watermark, a very fine Meder b impression, before all rustmarks, printing with intense, cleanly wiped highlights and some selective tone on the rocks at lower right, trimmed to or just outside the subject and retaining a fillet of blank paper outside the borderline in places, trimmed on or just inside the platemark below, a small pale brown stain below, otherwise in very good condition.

Dürer made at least two preparatory drawings for this etching. In the first, now in the Louvre (W. 584), the disciples are shown sleeping in the foreground. In the second (Albertina, Vienna, W. 585), used as the basis for the etching, he moved the disciples to the background and placed the figure of Christ in the foreground. All the emphasis is on Christ and the apparition of the angel above, while the narrative aspects of the scene, the sleeping disciples and the soldiers with their lances and torches coming for His arrest, are merely hinted at. The whole scene is shown in an intense, nervously flickering chiaroscuro, which heightens the sense of unrest and despair, as Christ says to His Father: O my Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass from me: nevertheless, not as I will, but as thou wilt. (Matthew 26.39)

By further stressing the core of the narrative - Christ's dialogue with God - Dürer created a devotional image in the spirit of the devotio moderna, whose supporters were in search for a personal and immediate approach to God.

Kupferstichkabinett der Staatlichen Museen, Berlin (L. 1606).

P. von Baldinger-Seidenberg (d. 1911), Stuttgart (L. 212); Gutekunst, Stuttgart, 7-11 May 1912, lot 289.

Henry Harper Benedict (1844-1935), New York (L. 2936).

British Rail Pension Fund; their sale, Sotheby's, London, 29 June 1987, lot 13 (£12,100).

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