This rare print is Dürer's first attempt in the medium of drypoint, a technique that had only been used before by the enigmatic Master of the Housebook. Drypoint is the most straightforward of all intaglio methods, and involves simply scratching the image into the metal plate with a needle. It allows the artist to work spontaneously, almost as if drawing with pen and ink on paper. The lines are less sharp than engraved lines and are often accompanied by a ridge of metal thrown up on either side of the trough cut by the needle. This metal, known as burr, also holds ink, and prints with a rich, almost furry quality. The disadvantage is that drypoints only print well in a small number of impressions and the finer lines and the burr quickly wear away.
We do not know what prompted Dürer to adopt the technique, but it was clearly an experiment and at this point he did not quite know how to exploit its full potential. Rather than drawing freely onto the plate, he generally kept to the methodical parallel line and crosshatched structure he was used to as an engraver. His unfamiliarity is apparent in the fact that he did not apply sufficient pressure, hence the plate is always rather pale in appearance.
Despite these technical shortcomings the figure of Christ and in particular the tree are beautifully realised, and the softness of the lines and sfumato are well suited to the melancholic subject.