Gift of Leonard C. Hanna, Jr. 1934.339
Catalogue raisonné: Meder 54
In the late Middle Ages an unusual legend was assigned to John Chrysostom, a hermit saint who lived in the wilderness. The story related that the daughter of the emperor lost her way during a storm and found shelter in the saint’s cave. In weakness, he betrayed his vow of chastity and in guilt, threw her off a cliff. To repent, John crawled like a beast in the wild for many years-seen at left. When the girl was miraculously found alive with her child, John was absolved of his sins.
Dürer’s focus on the mother and child is unprecedented in representations of the story. Although scholars generally view this print as an opportunity for the artist to depict the female nude, it is also possible that Dürer sought to illustrate a mother’s pure love and its virtuous triumph over sin.
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