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Royal Collection © Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II
The Virgin and Child with an angel playing the viol
A pen and ink drawing of the Virgin and Child seated on a grassy bench, with an angel playing the viol beneath.
In this drawing by Dürer, the Virgin sits on a bench fashioned from planks and turf against a cloth of honour (a hanging associated with important figures such as rulers and saints). On her lap she holds the Christ Child, who leans backwards to peer at an apple in his outstretched hand. The apple refers to that eaten by Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden. The Virgin’s gaze is directed demurely downwards, towards a viol-playing angel, who looks upwards to meet her eye. Dürer has revised small areas of the composition in a brown ink, mainly in the hair and hands of the three figures. The delicate composition lines with which Dürer worked out the proportions of the Virgin’s face can be seen clearly.
The drawing is an excellent example of Dürer’s confident yet exacting draughtsmanship, which was paralleled by his bold woodcuts. It shows the artist’s deft hatching, which was clearly executed briskly, yet with remarkable precision, making a careful contrast between areas of light and shade. Although the inscription is in a different ink, and is probably not in Dürer’s hand, the date 1519 is probably correct for the drawing, which appears to be one of a group of drawings and prints of this subject made by Dürer in 1519 and 1520.
Catalogue entry adapted from 'The Northern Renaissance. Dürer to Holbein', London 2011