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Albrecht Durer

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Prodigal Son as Swineherd

15th Century
10 in. x 7 3/4 in. (25.4 cm x 19.69 cm)

Albrecht Durer, German, (1471–1528)

Object Type: Works on Paper
Creation Place: Europe, Germany
Medium and Support: Engraving on paper
Credit Line: Gift of Katherine Caldwell
Accession Number: 1993.2.2
In this print, Dürer depicts the moment when the prodigal son acknowledges his prior sins and repents squandering his inheritance. By using extreme detail to depict the prodigal son in an impoverished setting, Dürer emphasizes the consequences that led the prodigal son to turn to God and ask for forgiveness. Dürer's use of hatching and cross-hatching creates the illusion of three-dimensional forms and a variety of different building materials, many of which appear to be waterlogged and falling apart. The pose of the prodigal son also contributes to the sense of poverty depicted in the engraving. The prodigal son humbly kneels near the trough of his pigs, conveying a highly emotional admission of repentance. The prodigal son's hands are raised in silent prayer, his eyes are directed towards the church at the top right corner of the composition. Rather than depicting the prodigal son as a sinner who foolishly squandered his fortune, Dürer depicts the prodigal son as a respectable, hard-working man. Dürer places extreme emphasis on the hands of the prodigal son, they appear as worn out as the scenery that surrounds him. The prodigal son's rough hands with bulging veins indicate a life of endeavoring labors. Using very subtle iconography and extreme attention to detail, Dürer is able to redeem the prodigal son's soul from his prior mistakes.

--Emma Johnson, December 2013

Exhibition List
This object was included in the following exhibitions:

  • Image Dimensions: 9 5/8 in. x 7 3/8 in. (24.45 cm x 18.73 cm)
  • Mat Dimensions: 20 in. x 16 in. (50.8 cm x 40.64 cm)
  • Sheet Dimensions: 10 x 7 3/4 in. (25.4 x 19.69 cm)

Bibliography List
This object has the following bibliographic references:

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