Madonna with the Pear



Albrecht Durer (1471-1528), Madonna with the Pear, engraving, 1511, Bartsch 41, Meder 33, Holstein 33. A Meder a impression. With an Anchor in a Circle watermark (Meder watermark 171). In very good condition, with thread margins, 6 1/4 x 4 1/4 inches, archival mounting.

Provenance: estate of Dr. and Mrs David Alterman.

A superb, brilliant black impression printing especially strongly toward the tree trunk, as characteristic of the earliest impressions. The Anchor in Circle watermark 171 is specified by Meder as found in fine impressions of Madonna and Pear (and also Christ on the Cross); Briquet dates paper with this watermark to 1506-1516.

Fine lifetime impressions of Durer (1471-1528) engravings are of the utmost rarity today outside of great museum collections. Commentators have differed as to whether the Madonna with the Pear is the most beautiful of the Durer Madonnas (and this observer feels that it is), but there is no doubt that it is a tour de force demonstration of Durer’s mastery. The composition is classic, but the portrait is far from a quiet repose – there is a tension between the Virgin and the Child (whose hand is raised as if to make a benediction); some commentators have suggested that the pear is here being used as a pacifier (as opposed the “apple of discord” or temptation).

In the best early impressions, such as ours, the tree is engraved and printed strongly – there even remains some burr from the burin work which was ordinarily burnished clean. So the tree takes on an animated dimension of its own – it creates a dramatic pull towards the right and the sky.