Albrecht Dürer, ‘Erasmus von Rotterdam (B. 107; M., Holl. 105; S.M.S. 102)’, 1526, Christie's Old Masters

Engraving, 1526, watermark Coat of Arms with Letter L and pendant Letter b (M. 314), a very fine Meder a impression, printing with great clarity and contrasts, trimmed to the subject, the blank area between the subject and the platemark very skilfully made up, otherwise in very good condition.

One of the greatest humanists who ever lived, Erasmus Desiderius of Rotterdam (circa 1466-1536) was a European intellectual who had studied in Paris and lived in Italy, the Netherlands, England, Switzerland and Germany. Throughout a long and active life he corresponded with more than five hundred personalities of the highest importance in the world of politics and philosophy, and his advice on all kinds of subjects was eagerly sought, if not always followed. Although he remained a Roman Catholic, he was critical of what he considered the excesses of the Roman Catholic Church, and using humanist techniques he prepared important new Latin and Greek editions of the New Testament which raised questions that would be influential in the Reformation. Indeed, the Catholic Counter-Reformation often condemned Erasmus for having 'laid the egg that hatched the Reformation.'

Dürer and Erasmus met on several occasions during the artist's Netherlandish journey 1520-21, probably the first time at the end of August 1520 in Brussels. It seems that Erasmus was keen to be portrayed by Dürer, who notes in his diary around that time that he drew him 'once more'. However only one drawing of Erasmus has survived (Paris, Louvre; W. 805), showing the scholar nearly frontal, wearing the same hat as in the engraving completed several years later.

Count Antoine Seilern (1901-1978), Surrey and London (not in Lugt and without watermark); Christie's, London, Albrecht Dürer - Prints from the Collection of the Late Count Antoine Seilern, 8 July 1998, lot 74 (£32,000)

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