The Small Woodcut Passion was designed and cut in a relatively short time, probably in the two years preceding its publication in 1511, the same year the Large Passion (lot 132) and the Life of the Virgin (lot 133) were published, and like these it was published by Dürer himself. It is the most extensive of all his series, comprising 36 blocks, 34 of which have survived and are now in the British Museum. The English woodcutter John Thompson (1785-1866) examined the blocks, which are made from pear wood, and identified the work of four different of woodcutters.
To scenes from the Life of Christ and the Passion Dürer added two images of the Fall of Man and the Expulsion from Paradise at the beginning, and of the Pentecost and the Last Judgement at the end of the series. He thereby put the Passion of Christ at the centre of a larger, all-encompassing narrative of the Fall and Redemption of Mankind.
Dürer worked on the Small Woodcut Passion at the same time as the Engraved Passion (lots 66-81). Comparing fine impressions of the woodcut series with the engraved series, it becomes apparent how similar they are in the density of lines and the rich chiaroscuro-effects, and it is astonishing to see what Dürer could achieve on such a small scale.