Albrecht Dürer, ‘Christ on the Mount of Olives, from: The Engraved Passion (B., M., Holl. 4; S.M.S. 46)’, 1508, Christie's Old Masters

Engraving with watercolour and bodycolour heightened with gold, 1508, trimmed to the subject and mounted on vellum, exquisitely handcoloured by Georg Mack around 1588 and initialled GM in gilt, the vellum border recto decorated with a scroll of flowers and berries, insects, a snake, a snail, a bird and two rabbits, verso with a German manuscript text in brown ink and gilt relating to the birth of Christ, the border decorated with a scroll of flowers and multicoloured leaves and various birds, window-mounted on modern laid paper, a short tear in the upper right border, thinly backed, otherwise in very good condition, framed.

Baltimore, The Baltimore Museum of Art, Painted Prints - The Revelation of Colour in Northern European Renaissance & Baroque Engravings, Etchings and Woodcuts, 2002-2003, no. 46 (ill.).

In the late 16th century, over fifty years after the Dürer's death, there was a renewed interest in the artist and his work - a period subsequently known as the 'Dürer Renaissance'. As the supply of paintings and drawings was necessarily limited demand was partially satisfied by the creation of hand colored engravings and woodcuts, approximating the appearance of painted miniatures.

In the first half of the 16th Century there were two distinct professional groups; the Illuministen, painters of miniatures and illuminated manuscripts and the Briefmaler, literally 'letter painters' who created coats of arms, playing cards and all manner of illustrated documents. However due to the rise of the printed book the demand for illuminated manuscripts diminished and the two professions - although still termed separately - gradually began to merge.

The Mack family - Hans, Georg the Elder and Georg the Younger - were among the most active and important Illuministen and Briefmaler in Nuremberg in the late 16th and early 17th Centuries. Their creations were much in demand, and a 1581 Nuremburg Court record gives some idea just how sought after their work was: 'Georg Mack (the Elder), Illuminist, because of his disobedience and delayed completion of a piece of artwork belonging to the Prince-Elector of the Palatine is to be taken to a tower, the work brought to him and completed there, and when it is done, interrogate him.' That such an important patron thought it worthwhile to pursue Mack through the courts gives some idea as to the magnitude of his reputation.

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

About Georg Mack the Elder

German, Active circa 1556 - 1601, based in Nuremberg, Germany

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