Albrecht Dürer, ‘Saint Jerome in his Study (B. 60; M., Holl. 59; S.M.S. 70)’, 1514, Christie's Old Masters

Engraving, 1514, without watermark, a very fine, bright Meder a impression, printing with remarkable clarity, with margins, in excellent condition.

Saint Jerome was one of the fathers of the Church and author of the Vulgate - the early 5th century version of the Bible in Latin. By Dürer's time he had, as a scholar and Latinist, become an iconic figure for the humanists. He is here immediately identifiable by his attributes, the cardinal's hat and the lion, as he sits writing at his desk in a small chamber. It is a friendly room and one would feel welcome, were it not for the lion and a sleeping dog guarding the entrance, and the wooden bench turned away from us as if to shield the saint from any intrusion.

Dated 1514, Saint Jerome in his Study was engraved one year after Knight, Death and the Devil (lot 44), and like the earlier print it is full of reminders of death: the human skull on the window ledge, the crucifix on the desk, the candle and the hour glass, while the fly whisk can be read as a reference to the devil.

Together with Melencolia I (see lot 42) these three engravings have long been known as the 'Master Prints'. The term is appropriate as with these prints Dürer undoubtedly reached the height of his capacities as an engraver. Aside from their technical excellence, the prints are also connected by their near-identical format and their concentration on a single figure in a highly complex, richly symbolic environment. If, as has been suggested, they represent the three different modes of virtuous living, Saint Jerome depicts the lonely, quiet life of the man of letters.

Pierre Mariette II (1634-1716), Paris, his mark recto and verso, dated 1666 (L. 1788).

Richard Leendertz (without mark, cf. L. 1708); C. G. Boerner, Düsseldorf, 1-20 April 1976, lot 10.

Kimbell Art Museum, Fort Worth, Texas; Sotheby's, New York, 13 May 1987, lot 15 (US$159,500).

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