Albrecht Dürer, ‘The Dream of the Doctor (B. 76; M., Holl. 70; S.M.S. 18)’, ca. 1498, Christie's Old Masters

Engraving, circa 1498, without watermark, a very fine, rich and black Meder a-b impression, with burr in the darkest areas, printing with very faint wiping marks below, trimmed inside the platemark on three sides but retaining a fillet of blank paper outside the borderline, trimmed on or just inside the platemark above, in excellent condition.

Resting on soft cushions by a stove, a man has fallen asleep, whilst a devil or demon blows sinful thoughts into his ear. In his lustful dreams, Venus herself tempts him while little Amor tries to walk on stilts and has cast aside a toy ball. The moral lessons are obvious; sloth leads to lust, and love is fickle. The so-called Dream of the Doctor is a secular version of the Fall of Man, complete with the apple resting on the stove, and Venus is closely related to Eve in Adam and Eve (lot 26). There is a charm and light-heartedness about this print which does not quite seem to support the moral rigor of its message.

August Artaria (1807-1893), Vienna (L. 33); his posthumous sale, Artaria, Vienna, 6-13 May 1896, lot 96 (Mk 130).

Dr. Gottfried Eissler (1862-1924), Vienna (L. 805b); his sale, C.G. Boerner, Leipzig, 8 - 10 November 1921, lot 272.

Henry Harper Benedict (1844-1935), New York (L. 2936); then by descent. Sotheby Parke Bernet, New York, 10 May 1973, lot 74 (US$11,500).

British Rail Pension Fund; their sale, Sotheby's, London, 29 June 1987, lot 11 (£33,000).

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