Albrecht Dürer, ‘The Seamonster (B. 71; M., Holl. 66; S.M.S. 21)’, ca. 1498, Christie's Old Masters

Engraving, circa 1498, without watermark, a fine, rich and warm Meder a-b impression, trimmed to or just outside the borderline on three sides, the upper sheet edge made up, a few other tiny defects at the sheet edges, some pale, unobtrusive staining, otherwise in good condition.

As Dürer's interest in the classical nude and the appropriation of Italian art of the previous generation (in particular Mantegna and Pollaiuolo, whose Battle of the Naked Men is being offered in the Renaissance sale at Christie's, New York, on January 30th) intensified, his subjects became increasingly mysterious. Whether he illustrated obscure mythological subjects suggested by his humanist friends, such as Pirckheimer, or whether he took elements of pre-existing images and myths to create his own fanciful subjects is impossible to determine. Legions of art historians have tried to unravel the iconography of the Seamonster and Hercules (see the preceeding lot), without ever coming to a satisfying conclusion. In his diary of his Netherlandish journey Dürer laconically refers to the present work as the 'Meerwunder', and the first recorded description of the print, by Giorgio Vasari, is still as valid as any: una ninfa portata via da un Mostro Marino, mentre alcun'altre Ninfe si bagnano (a nymph carried off by a seamonster, while some other nymphs bathe.)

Max Egon Fürst zu Fürstenberg (born 1863), Donaueschingen

(L. 2811).

George and Marianne Kuhner, Vienna and Los Angeles (not in Lugt);

Christie's, New York, 7-8 May 1985, lot 546 (US$19,800).

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