Here Dürer depicts one of the Wise Virgins described in the Gospel of Matthew (25:1–13). The subject matter and sophisticated hatching may reference Martin Schongauer's (c. 1435/50–1491) prints illustrating the same biblical parable. These shading techniques may also stem from Dürer's training in the workshop of Michael Wolgemut (1434/7–1519), whose drawings employed similar tonal effects. Dürer's image is charming, yet the clumsily rendered arms and awkwardly twisted torso are visual reminders of the young artist's initial struggles with foreshortening and anatomy.
German and Swiss Drawings
Albrecht Dürer (1471–1528)
A Wise Virgin
Pen and brown ink on paper
Samuel Courtauld Trust: Princes Gate Bequest, 1978
Joseph Heintz (1564–1609)
Studies for the Flight into Egypt
Black, red, and traces of white chalk
Samuel Courtauld Trust: Witt Bequest, 1952
This fluently drawn study of the Holy Family fleeing from persecution is an example of the vibrant draftsmanship of Swiss-born Joseph Heintz. One of the leading artists at the court of Emperor Rudolph II in Prague, Heintz also spent many years in Italy. The mix of red and black chalk, used here to great coloristic effect, is characteristic of Italian art around 1600.