(b. ca. 1430, Colmar, d. 1491, Breisach)

Madonna and Child in the Couryard

c. 1480
Engraving, 166 x 119 mm
Staatliche Museen, Berlin

Schongauer journeyed through Burgundy, where he sketched Van der Weyden's Christ in Beaune, and probably the Low Countries during his Wanderjahre. Prints such as the Madonna and Child in the Courtyard spread the figure style of Van de Weyden and Bouts across Germany. Yet Schongauer was no mere imitator; this print is almost as eloquent for what it omits as for what it includes. The Virgin and Child sit alone in a walled yard. Schongauer stressed their quiet intimacy, deftly exploiting the whiteness of the paper to convey both solids and voids. Keyed by a few adjacent lines, the viewer accepts the paper as sky, or behind Mary, as a solid, protective wall. Elsewhere it indicates ground, grass, sun-drenched fabric, flesh, or even a radiant, non-transparent halo. Familiar with the conventions of Renaissance art, the viewer actively 'reads' identical passages of white in very different ways.