The Men's Bath House

The Men's Bath House

c. 1496-1497

Albrecht Dürer

(German, 1471-1528)


Fiftieth anniversary gift of The Print Club of Cleveland 1969.271

Catalogue raisonné: Meder 266


The Men’s Bath House could be a simple genre scene or be interpreted as an allegory. The bathers could represent the four temperaments, each of whom is undergoing an appropriate purgative treatment: for melancholic gloom, the figure leaning on the post at the left listens to music; for phlegmatic sluggishness, the figure at the right drinks wine; for choleric cruelty, the figure in the left
foreground will rub himself with a scraping knife; and for sanguine sensuality, the figure in the right
foreground inhales the fragrance of a flower.

Dürer produced many large woodcuts in the 1490s that had striking pictorial effects. Several of these
are secular in content, reflecting a growing public interest in nonreligious subjects. A bath house was a fairly common image at the time but Dürer has treated the scene with great originality. He represented the male figure at different ages and in contrasting positions, a theme with which he was then preoccupied. The outdoor setting is unusual and allows for a landscape background which adds a sense of deep space.

See also
PR - Woodcut
Type of artwork: 

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