Disappointed with his experiments in drypoint circa 1512 - either with the results or the small number of good impressions yielded - Dürer returned to engraving. However in 1515 he began to experiment again, this time with etching. This change may have been prompted by a feeling that his efforts in engraving had reached their zenith with his three 'Master Prints' or perhaps he had tired of the physical effort engraving required.
The technique of etching lines or patterns with acid into metal came from the workshops of sword-smiths and armourers, crafts with which Dürer would, as the son of a goldsmith, have been familiar, especially as Nuremberg was one of the European centres of arms and armour manufacture.
The present work is almost certainly Dürer's first attempt in the new technique. The lack of the monogram might be an indication that Dürer considered it an experiment and not a finished print suitable for publication. Accordingly it is quite rare. Although Dürer had by no means explored the full potential of the new technique at this point he immediately grasped its essential attraction - the possibility to draw quickly and effortlessly into the etching ground, thereby creating a liveliness and immediacy rarely achievable through engraving.