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

Madonna by the Wall

Engraving, 149 x 101 mm
Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York

Critics call this the most perfect and rare of all of Dürer's engravings, assigning to it a special place among all of Dürer's plates. It is transitional from the technique of deep black lines to a more even-tempered, silvery mat texture. Its mood is almost tragic, akin to that of Melencolia I, perhaps because of the death of Dürer's mother, which occurred on May 14, 1514.

Whereas the Madonna with the Monkey is pure black and white, the Madonna by the Wall shows a unique variety of texture resulting in a colouristic effect. The Madonna by the Wall represents a perfect coincidence of apparent opposites. Regal, virginal, yet humble and motherly. Its utmost precision of design is combined with incomparable softness of texture. The Infant Christ is here holding an apple (compare Madonna by the Tree). In the background appears the castle of Nuremberg, which Dürer could see from the windows of his house.