Albrecht Dürer, ‘The Landscape with the Cannon (B. 99; M., Holl. 96; S.M.S. 85)’, 1518, Christie's Old Masters

Etching, 1518, watermark Anchor in a Circle, a fine Meder a impression before all rustmarks, printing with great contrasts and depth, trimmed on or just inside the platemark, with thread margins in places below, generally in very good condition.

Although the landscape is not the primary subject of this etching - unusual in its horizontal format - it is still one of the first prints in western art in which landscape plays a prominent supporting role. In the foreground stands a large cannon, guarded by a lansquenet, while the other figures, dressed in Turkish and Hungarian attire, stand as onlookers nearby. The cannon does not seem to be aimed at anything in particular and there is no indication of a battle or even animosities between the various figures. The historical context and the relationship between the different elements - the cannon, the figures and the landscape remains unclear.

It has been suggested that the etching was created as 'propaganda' in support of Emperor Maximilian's military modernization and his plans for a new crusade against the Ottoman Empire. The cannon however is of an outdated design, and the figures depicted hardly suggest the imminent defeat of the old enemy.

Whilst the subject of the scene in the foreground remains unidentified, the beautiful landscape in the background is a view of the village of Kirchehrenbach in Franconia. It is based on a silverpoint drawing which Dürer probably drew in situ on his way to Bamberg. Since the etching is not intended to depict any historical event related to this particular village he saw no obstacle in relocating it to the coast, a transmutation seen in several other landscapes.

Charles C. Cunningham Jr. (2nd half 20th cent.), New England (not in Lugt).

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