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

The Temptation of the Idler; or The Dream of the Doctor

c. 1498
Engraving, 188 x 119 mm
Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York

It has been observed by every commentator on Dürer's genius that in his work is found the blending .of two great traditions the medieval, culminating in the Gothic, and the revered Classical, rediscovered and nurtured by the Renaissance, especially in Italy.

Erwin Panofsky feels that The Dream, sometimes called The Dream of the Doctor, should be titled The Temptation of the Idler, for here is pictured a slothful, self indulgent individual who sleeps in front of his heated fireplace, comfortably resting his head against a soft pillow. According to medieval codes of conduct such behaviour encouraged temptation, which is represented by the Devil, a demon who "blows" thoughts, presumably evil, into the sleeper's ear. Probably the dream itself is represented by the nude Venus, voluptuous and inviting. She is accompanied, no doubt to identify her, by a playful Eros. The model for the female form may well have been taken from the languorous women of the Italian Jacopo de' Barbari, whose engravings Dürer admired, or from other works by Italian masters which he knew.

Young Dürer was trained as an apprentice in his father's goldsmith shop. There he learned the use of the graver or burin for incising designs and images into metal. Practically all of the great masters of the engraved print had similar early training.

Dürer's mastery of his tools is evident in this print. Note the clean, sure flicks of the graver, suggesting modeling and volume. In the upper background, minute crosshatching is employed to project the sleeping figure forward from the rear plane. Dürer's training as a goldsmith also prepared him to render the hardware of the furniture, the texture of the tiles, and the graining of wood.