The 15th century was a period of change, between the 'Waning of the Middle Ages' (Johan Huizinga) and the rise of humanism and the renaissance. Martin Schongauer, the earliest European printmaker known to us by name, exemplifies this transition. His exquisite little Virgin and Child seated on a grassy Bench is a great example of his style, which beautifully combines the simple elegance and humble sentiment of 'gothic' art with the technical brilliance and understanding of perspective and anatomy of the renaissance. Few scenes in western printmaking are as touching, simple and delicate as Schongauer's Virgin, offering an apple for the Child to play.
In their volume of Hollstein Lothar Schmitt and Nicholas Stogdon record a total of 31 impressions of this print, of which they consider only two impressions fine and in good condition, one in London and one in Vienna. Lehrs mentioned five first-rate impressions. The present, previously unrecorded impression from the collection of the Dukes of Portland is undoubtedly fine and early.