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

St Jerome

Woodcut, 190 x 133 mm
Kupferstichkabinett, Öffentliche Kunstsammlung, Basel

By the beginning of 1492 Dürer was in Colmar, in Alsace, where he had hoped to meet Martin Schongauer (active 1465-91), the painter and master engraver. Unfortunately, Schongauer had died the previous year, although Dürer was welcomed by his brothers who had assisted him in his workshop. A few weeks later Dürer moved south to Basel, where he probably stayed for at least a year. The Swiss city had become one of Europe's most important printing centres and there the young Nuremberg artist found work designing woodcuts. Among his earliest identified prints is an illustration of St Jerome in his Study, prepared for the title page of the second edition of the saint's letters.

This frontispiece proves that Dürer spent some time in Basel as a journeyman. On the back of the wood engraving block, the following is written in Albrecht Dürer's hand: "Albrecht Dürer von nörmergk" (Albrecht Dürer from Nuremberg). This scene depicts St Jerome pulling a thorn out of a lion's paw, from which point on the latter becomes his loyal companion. The Father of the Church's living room and study is adorned by open books and the everyday objects of the secular and spiritual worlds, realistic details which before this date were rarely depicted in woodcuts.