ALBRECHT DÜRER (1471-1528)
ALBRECHT DÜRER (1471-1528)

Saint Eustace

ALBRECHT DÜRER (1471-1528)
Saint Eustace
circa 1501
on laid paper, watermark Bull's Head (Meder 62)
a very fine, rich and early Meder b impression
printing very sharply, with great depth, intense contrasts and much relief
trimmed to or on the platemark
generally in very good condition
Plate & Sheet 358 x 260 mm.
Valentin Weisbach (1843-1899), Berlin (Lugt 2539b); then by descent to his son Werner Weisbach (1873-1953), Berlin and Basel (see Lugt 2659a; without his mark).
Albert W. Blum (1882-1952), Switzerland and Short Hills, New Jersey (Lugt 79b); probably acquired directly from the above.
With E. & R. Kistner, Nuremberg.
Private Collection, Switzerland; acquired from the above in 1991; then by descent to the present owners.
Bartsch 57; Meder, Hollstein 60; Schoch Mende Scherbaum 32

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Stefano Franceschi
Stefano Franceschi Specialist

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Lot Essay

The largest of all Dürer's engravings, Saint Eustace has always been regarded as one of his greatest. Dürer himself considered this early work something of a show-piece and took it with him on his journey to the Netherlands in 1521. In his travel diary he mentions six occasions of selling or presenting it to potential patrons. The subject matter was well chosen - Saint Eustace, the patron saint of huntsmen, was enormously popular in Northern Europe at this time. According to the legend a Roman soldier called Placidas saw a vision of the crucified Christ appear between the antlers of a stag he was hunting. Upon hearing God's voice spoken by the animal, 'O Placidas, why pursuest thou me?', he fell on his knees, was converted and baptized with the name Eustace.
In Dürer's engraving the saint is shown kneeling on the banks of a stream, transfixed by his vision, while his horse and hounds wait patiently for their master. The animals are depicted with delightful naturalism, as is the woodland vegetation, the gnarled and splintered tree trunk, and the view in the distance of a hill surmounted by a castle, with a flock of birds spiraling around its castellated turrets. This display of technical virtuosity may have been Dürer's counter to the hotly contested view prevalent in the 16th century that sculpture was superior to painting due to its capacity to show the figure three-dimensionally. Dürer's depiction of the natural world in Saint Eustace in such exquisite detail - and in the case of the dogs from different sides at once - was a provocative claim for the parity of painting, drawing and printmaking. One of the most admired and best loved elements in Dürer's whole graphic oeuvre are indeed the greyhounds in the foreground, which prompted Vasari's effusive description of the engraving as 'amazing, and particularly for the beauty of some dogs in various attitudes, which could not be more perfect'.
Fine, early impressions of Saint Eustace have always ranked amongst the most highly-prized possessions of a print collector. The present sheet is proof of that very fact, as it was previously in the esteemed collections of the very discriminating Valentin Weisbach and his son, the art historian Werner Weisbach, and Albert Blum, one of the preeminent collectors of old master prints of the last century.

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