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

St Anthony

Engraving, 96 x 143 mm
Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York

Dürer recorded in his diary of the trip to the Low Countries, 1520/21, that he gave away St Anthony as a present on six occasions. It is one of the very few Dürer engravings in horizontal format. St Anthony (ca. 250-350 A.D.) was the first Christian monk. He lived in Egypt and loved poverty, piety and scholarship. The traditional rendering of this saint shows him in the desert beset by fantastic creatures, a scene which allows the freest reign to an artist's imagination. But Dürer chose to picture him in a melancholy mood, in a setting where the scenery dominates the composition. The background is a cityscape taken over from an entirely different subject, the drawing Pupila Augusta which Dürer had laid aside many years before. The composition is almost cubistic in concept. The contours of saint and scene correspond. During this year Dürer experimented with "cubistic" figures and faceted faces, which like St Anthony seem to have been put together block by block.