FAULTLESSLY AFTER DÜRER
Figurae Passionis Domini Nostri Jesu Christi.N.pl., N. pr., c. 1587
4to. 38 unnumbered leaves, last blank, first, seated figure of Christ + 36 full page woodcuts, some with Dürer’s monogram, copied by Johann Mommard. Woodcut surface 5in by 3.9in. C18 ms to head of fly with title and author, page numbers in early ink to upper outer corners. Age yellowing, a little marginal foxing, encroaching on a couple of plates. Detailed and very attractive images in good clear impression. Early woodcut of baptism pasted to fly. An attractive copy in very handsome French straight grained red morocco C1800, gilt border, spine gilt, in slip case.
Lovely collection of woodcuts excellently copied from probably the most famous engraver of the Renaissance, Albrecht Dürer (1471-1528). Born in Nuremberg, Dürer initially found fame as a painter, later turning to woodcut production. This collection contains a Christ despondent on the title page, followed by 36 exquisite full page woodcuts showing Dürer’s ‘Small Passion’; a portable devotional book illustrating the narrative of Christ’s passion. The ‘passions’ depict the physical and spiritual suffering of Christ in the last days of his life on earth. The portable and reproduceable format of woodcut prints meant that the Church could distribute them to the largely illiterate population, and this series established Dürer’s reputation amongst all classes in Europe.
This complete series was produced by the enigmatic artist Johann Mommard (1560-1631) around 1587, the differences to Dürer’s originals only discernible through intensive comparison. The copies are painstakingly modelled on each line carved by Dürer and are a testament to the immense skill and attention to detail Mommard put into the work. This printing is without the Latin text to the versos and is presenting in a slightly different order to Dürer’s. Mommard’s deceptive copies are very collectible in their own right, and richly pay homage to the originals (See British Museum no. 1834,0712.3).
The Small Passion cycle was begun after Dürer’s second visit to Italy, around 1505-7. It commences with the hugely famous woodcut depiction of The Fall, with Adam and Eve being tempted by the serpent. The first edition was published in 1511 with Latin text on the reverse. It was an instant success and was consistently reprinted with or without text or as separate sheets into the twentieth century. Two plates in this printing have the date 1509 and two others 1510, and a number exhibit Dürer’s ‘AD’ monogram. A particularly striking plate shows the fatal kiss of Judas, where Christ and his betrayer are shown amidst a writhing crowd of soldiers. Another depicts Veronica’s Veil, with a remarkable portrait of Christ upon the cloth.