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Original woodcut printed in black ink on laid paper bearing the “Escutcheon with Diagonal Beam” watermark (Meder 246)
Signed in the block with the artist’s monogram on a tablet lower center.
A strong, dark and unusually fine late 16th century Meder “h” impression, with no letterpress text on the verso, but with none of the damage to the block associated with impressions from this era, printed circa 1600. One of 20 woodcuts (frontispiece and 19 plates) issued in the album The Life of the Virgin.
Catalog: Bartsch 80; Kurth 178; Meder 192.h; Panofsky 300; Strauss 78; Schoch/Mende/Scherbaum 170
11 5/8 x 8 5/16 inches
Sheet Size: 11 13/16 x 8 3/8 inches
In excellent condition, trimmed just outside the borderline on all four sides.
Collections in which comparable impressions of this woodcut can be found: Museum of Fine Arts (Department of Prints and Drawings), Boston; Bibliothèque Nationale (Cabinet des Estampes, Paris.
Dürer has added many amusing details to this composition: an elderly woman has fallen asleep, the infant is Mary is getting her first bath in the foreground, a pair of scissors has been placed on the chest on the left. The setting is a typical German interior of the 16th century in which thirteen women in three distinct groupings are engaged in the tasks related to child birth. Three of them on the left form a triangle similar to the triangle created by the opening of the drapes of the bedstead. The woman drinking has a knife in a sheath tied to her belt, and may be the midwife. The guardian angel, carrying a censer, invisible to the participants because he is pictured above the fringe of clouds, not only fills the otherwise empty space in the upper half of the sheet, but most importantly, serves as the only reminder of the solemn occasion.