Arader Galleries


Miscellany Prints

DURER, Albrecht (1471-1528). Christ on the Mount of Olives. [Nuremberg, 1508].

DURER, Albrecht (1471-1528). Christ on the Mount of Olives. [Nuremberg, 1508].


Single sheet, float mounted and framed, (sheet size: 4 ¼ x 2 ¾ inches; framed size: 9 ¾ x 8 inches). Exceptionally fine engraving by Durer, signed (monogram) and dated within the plate. CONDITION REPORT: A superb, richly-inked and dark Meder a-b impression, with very strong contrasts and no sign of wear.

Provenance: The Philadelphia Museum of Art, their sale, Swann Auction Galleries, sale 2381, April 29, 2015, lot 29.

First edition. Excellent condition and a lovely example of a Meder a-b impression. This moving scene, also known as “Agony in the Garden,” is part of Durer’s Engraved Passion series. It is one of three passion series that he produced at the turn of the 16th century; the other two are the Small Passion and the Large Passion, both woodcut, which were accompanied by Latin text. The 16 engravings of the Engraved Passion series, on the other hand, were produced without accompanying text over a longer period of time and sold singly before the entire series was completed, and probably never as a bound book. Though the Engraved Passion is also small-format, it differs by what Panofsky called “an aristocratic slenderness of proportion,” measuring about 4 ½ x 3 inches, as compared to the woodcut Small Passion’s 5 x 4 inches. The prints of the Engraved Passion were intended for a more elite audience of connoisseurs, collectors, and intellectuals, while the woodcuts were produced with a more general audience in mind. Panofsky compares the Engraved Passion favorably to the more robust Small Passion, noting that “it has something sumptuous about it. It stresses spiritual suffering rather than physical torture and never loses sight of the preterhuman dignity of Christ” (Panofsky).

“Durer’s Netherlandish diary entries of 1520/21 document the artist’s lasting affinity with the ‘Engraved Passion’ series: at least twelve sets are described as presents given to friends and superiors; and one instance records the artist’s wish to be remembered by it. The series is conceived as an intimate visual dialogue with the viewer. It employs a powerful narrative pace, that is accentuated by the protagonists’ agitation, dramatic tonal grading, and the artist’s manipulation of the viewpoint…

“The ‘Engraved Passion’ is the only one of the artist’s series of prints that is completely self contained, the images were conceived without an accompanying explanatory text in mind, and thus not published in book format…Conversely the immense popularity of the series over time among both the Catholic and the Protestant clergy suggests a continued awareness of its devotional purpose…

“What immediately strikes us as unusual in this version of the ‘Agony’ [as here] is Durer’s unrestrained exposure of Christ’s humanity. Deeply affected by the ordeal he knows is awaiting him Christ kneels on the ground raising his arms imploringly and on the brink of despair; even his gown, only momentarily reflecting the angel’s light, seems to be weighing him down.

“…[T]he ‘Engraved Passion’ seems to have been created with the type of devotee in mind with whom Durer himself identified and socialized, a vivacious, intellectually and culturally demanding minority, devout and personally involved in the religious debates leading up to the Reformation” (Angela Hass, “Two Devotional Manuals by Albrecht Durer: The ‘Small Passion’ and the ‘Engraved Passion.’ Iconography, Context and Spirituality”). Bartsch 4. Meder 4.


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