DÜRER, Albrecht
(b. 1471, Nürnberg, d. 1528, Nürnberg)

Job and His Wife

c. 1504
Oil on panel, 94 x 51 cm
Städelsches Kunstinstitut, Frankfurt

The panel is a wing of the Jabach Altarpiece, named after one of its previous owners. Originally, however, it was commissioned by Frederick the Wise, elector of Saxony. Another panel in Cologne, depicting two musicians, belongs to this altar, too. It is conceivable that these two pictures are the results of sawing a larger one in two. Even though their conditions differ, it is clearly visible that the background and the horizon in both pictures match, and portions of the clothes of Job's wife may be found in the picture of the two musicians. There is even a sixteenth-century drawing which shows the two paintings as one composition. The two pictures together may have constituted the centre panel of a Job altar commissioned by Frederick the Wise to commemorate the plague which ravaged the German lands in 1503.

It should be noted that there are scholars who have proposed that these two pictures used to form the two wing-panels of a triptych showing the Adoration of the Magi (now in the Galleria degli Uffizi in Florence).

The altar, besides depicting Job as the patron saint of people suffering skin diseases, also points to his connection with music. On the first part of the painting we see the suffering Job cowering on a refuse heap while his wife drenches him with water. On the second part, the musicians are certainly the representatives of healing music. According to the medieval melotherapy, Job, who was devoted to music when he was healthy, should recover upon hearing the melody.