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

Life of the Virgin: 17. The Death of Mary

Woodcut, 293 x 206 mm
Kupferstichkabinett, Staatliche Kunsthalle, Karlsruhe

The canopied bed in which the Mother of God has just died is positioned centrally in a barrel vaulted room. The disciples are busy carrying out the medieval last rites. St Peter, dressed as a bishop, is swinging the aspergillum containing incense while St John presses the candle of death into the Mother of God's hands. Two of the disciples are reading funeral prayers, others are deep in prayer; in the foreground two figures are holding an incense burner and a crucifix which could be used to grant the deceased person an indulgence. The woodcut follows the tradition of the medieval ars moriendi depictions, and one model is a copper engraving of the same name by Martin Schongauer. The woodcut is part of a series of 19 sheets which make up the Life of the Virgin, which was published in book form in 1511.