Albrecht Dürer, ‘The Virgin and Child on a grassy Bench (B. 34; M., Holl. 31; S.M.S. 36)’, 1503, Christie's Old Masters

Engraving, 1503, with part of Bull's Head watermark (M. 62), a very fine Meder b impression, trimmed to the subject, the 2-3 mm. margins extremely skilfully made up, with tiny touches of pen and ink at the borderline, otherwise in very good condition.

Everything in the Virgin and Child on a grassy Bench is aimed at creating a sense of intimacy and modesty; neither the Virgin nor the Christ Child has a halo, the group is seen at an angle slightly from above and the hortus conclusus, only hinted at with a few simple plants and blades of grass, is not walled in but merely delineated by a simple wooden fence. The lack of a landscape in the background adds to the peace and simplicity of the scene, as does the little songbird perched on the fence. Mary is completely absorbed in her care for the Child, and by choosing to depict her nursing the Child, Dürer further intensified the feeling of intimacy, almost to the point where as a viewer one is afraid to disturb them.

This is a deceptively effortless print, and one which required all of Dürer's technical expertise to produce. It was to become one of his most popular prints of its time, and no fewer than 12 engraved copies of this subject are known.

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