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Storytelling in Miniature

Hans Sebald Beham
German, 1500–1550

The Prodigal Son with the Swine, from “The Story of the Prodigal Son”

Engraving, about 1540
2 5/16 x 3 15/16 in.
Museum purchase, 1923.3199In 1496, Albrecht Dürer made an unprecedented statement with his print The Prodigal Son Amid the Swine, depicting the prodigal kneeling in a barnyard amongst the pigs. The prodigal was, in Dürer’s print, equated with the animals around him. In this version by Sebald Beham, produced some 44 years later, the prodigal is shown in a bucolic landscape leaning on a staff and staring into the distance as he oversees the swine herd. While reduced in wealth and class status in Beham’s version, the prodigal maintains a certain amount of dignity.