A coat of arms with a skull

Albrecht Dürer
Nuremberg 1471 -1528
A coat of arms with a skull
1503 c.
Engraving, on laid paper
217 x 153 mm

watermark High Crown n. 20 Meder a

Dated at the bottom on the stone 1503 and signed with monogram on a tablet placed on the right.

In excellent condition, printed with good contrast in the figure the wild man hugging a girl on the left side of the composition. The savage man has abandoned his shield and helmet to embrace a young woman who, by her festive dress and nuptial crown, can be identified as a noble Nuremberg patrician, who does not seem to care about this figure's advances. The inclination of the skull on the shield at the bottom of the coat of arms is exactly the same as the head of the young woman on the left in the entire composition: a premonition of death.

The Coat of Arms with the skull is Dürer's  greatest graphic essay on the theme of love, lust and death subjects that fascinated him and to which he will return often during the first years of his career as an engraver.

The artist was inspired by elements of heraldry: the shield, helmet, wings and wild man thus creating a Vanitas.

Albrecht Dürer - Das druckgraphische Werk, Band I – Kupferstiche, Eisenradierungen und Kaltnadelblätter, Bearbeitet von Rainer Schoch, Matthias Mende und Anna Scherbaum – 2001 - Prestel München – London – New York.
Adam Bartsch – Le peintre graveur, Nouvelle édition – Reimpression complète au format reduit, VI-XI – Maìtres Allemands – Nieuwkoop / B. de Graaf 1982. Sixième volume.