Apr 27, 2006

The Lovers Surprised by Death

The Lovers Surprised by Death


Hans Burgkmair

(German, 1473–1531)

Chiaroscuro woodcut

John L. Severance Fund 1952.533

Catalogue raisonné: Hollstein V.124.724

State: III/IV



This is the earliest known chiaroscuro woodcut to be composed of a line block and two tone blocks rather than just one tone block. However, unlike the majority of German chiaroscuro woodcuts, the line block alone does not provide a coherent image. All three of the blocks must be printed for the design to be complete. The subject is a remarkably effective combination of a typically Northern subject—a grim representation of Death—and an evocative Italian setting. The classical architecture, the gondola on a canal, and the distinctively wide chimney pots indicate Venice, where Burgkmair would have stayed during his presumed journey to Italy in 1507. The figure of Death is winged, as in Italian art of the period, and the classical costumes and pose of the terrified woman resemble antique representations of Daphne fleeing Apollo, a reflection of what interested Burgkmair's patrons, the educated elite in Augsburg.

See also
PR - Chiaroscuro
Type of artwork: 

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