Albrecht Dürer, ‘The ill-assorted Couple (B. 93; M., Holl. 77; S.M.S. 3)’, ca. 1495, Christie's Old Masters

Engraving, circa 1495, without watermark, a fine, dark Meder I a-b impression, printing with touches of burr and with wiping marks in the sky and elsewhere, with thread margins, trimmed to or on the platemark in places, the tip of the lower right corner made up, generally in good condition.

The theme of the ill-matched couple is a classic literary topos and became a popular subject for prints towards the end of the 15th century. Whilst most printmakers used it as an opportunity for caricature, Dürer's account of this inappropriate rendezvous is far more realistic and subtle. The old man is not ugly or disfigured, but is made to look slightly ridiculous in his pointy, fashionable shoes. He gaze is intense and lecherous, and whilst he gropes her with his right hand he reaches into his purse with his left. With an innocent smile she looks straight ahead, seemingly ignoring his advances, but she has opened her purse too and is ready to receive payment.

The old man's horse, lustfully rubbing its flank against a tree, has been seen as a reference to Jeremiah, who likened men to horses: They were as fed horses in the morning: every one neighed after his neighbour's wife. (Jeremiah 5.8)

P. Gellatly (1831-1912), Essex and London (L. 1185); his sale,

Gutekunst, Stuttgart, 13-18 May 1911, lot 365 (Mk 370).

Probably O. Gerstenberg (1848-1935), Berlin (L. 1840c); with the pencil inscription M 60 on the reverse.

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