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

Young Couple Threatened by Death; or, the Promenade

c. 1498
Engraving, 196 x 121 mm
Staatliche Kunsthalle, Karlsruhe

The Engraving showing a strolling couple is one of the genre pictures which Dürer created in the tradition of the Master of the Housebook and Martin Schongauer. As the gallant gazes at his companion adoringly, he points ahead to the path. The ostrich feather he is wearing in his hat is a sign of his bachelor status. The fantastic costume worn by the woman combines elements from both Nuremberg and Venetian fashion. Behind the tree, unnoticed by the lovers, Death is holding up an hourglass. The picture can be interpreted as a moralizing metaphor for the transitoriness of love and sensuality.

The figure of death does not necessarily indicate a warning to lovers, as this was not customary in the fifteenth century. Death was, however, frequently pictured as a reminder that life on earth should not be solely devoted to pleasure and luxury. The cap worn by the man is a precursor of the berets which became popular in the sixteenth century. He has also already discarded the pointed shoes of the type still worn by his companion. The tall grass-like plant in the foreground may be allegorical, related to the quotation from Isaiah in the Basel Dance of Death that "all flesh is like hay and grass; grass dries up and flowers wilt. "