Virgin and Child with the Pear


Hans Sebald Beham (1500-1550), Virgin and Child with the Pear, engraving, 1520. Initials monogram and date in the plate. References: Bartsch 18, Pauli, Hollstein 19. First state (of two). In good condition, on old laid paper with thread margins on three sides, trimmed on the platemark bottom right and bottom, and archival mounting.  h: 4.5 x w: 3 in / h: 11.4 x w: 7.6 cm

A very good impression of this rarity.

Hollstein indicates that earlier impressions, such as this one, do not have a scratch above the head of the Virgin.

Beham was one of the Northern Renaissance Little Masters, so called because of their eminence in producing small-scale engravings such as the Virgin and Child with a Pear. Beham was born in Nuremberg in 1500, and may have trained under Durer, though his training is no more certain than that of his younger brother Barthel. He made his first engraving in 1518, and later became known for producing woodcuts as well.

Beham’s Madonna with the Pear has a similar composition but in reverse to Durer’s engraving of the same subject done only 9 years earlier. In both prints the Madonna rests against a tree and holds the pear away from the Child; Durer’s image is larger and includes a city background; Beham draws no clouds or buildings in the space next to the Virgin, but instead features her long curly hair blowing towards the right.

The pear as a pacifier as opposed to the “apple of discord” or temptation occurs as an attribute of the Virgin in a sculpture at the Cathedral at Chartres, completed in 1240.