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Storytelling in Miniature

Albrecht Dürer
German, 1471–1528

Lady on Horseback and Lansquenet

Engraving, about 1496
Image: 4 1/4 x 3 1/4 in.
Museum purchase, 1943.28

When he was a young artist, Albrecht Dürer often explored the themes of love and the brevity of life. This print, however, is free of the moralizing commentary about the transience of life and youth: there is no figure of the Devil or Death in this scene, as in Hans Sebald Beham’s The Lady and Death (see p. 17) . Indeed, Dürer seems to be suggesting earthly delights. Aspects of the figures—the feather (denoting the maiden’s unmarried status), the comely gaze, the intimate touch, and the uninhibited stance of the young mercenary soldier—suggest an amorous relationship.

Although this is a very good impression, it was probably not printed in the 15th century. In his early plates, Dürer used a deeply engraved system of curved and swelling lines to give his figures solidity. These plates were therefore able to produce good impressions for a surprisingly long time.