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Abduction of Proserpine on a Unicorn

Albrecht Dürer1516

SMK - Statens Museum for Kunst

SMK - Statens Museum for Kunst

In spite of great diligence and learning, no-one has as yet provided an entirely satisfactory account of the underlying meaning of this iron etching. Scholars have searched in vain for a literary source within classical mythology and German legend.

The picture's unsolvable rebus

A naked horseman, his hair and beard wild and unkempt, his appearance very much like that of Dürer himself, grabs an equally naked, high-bosomed woman and abducts her on a horned, horse-like creature, presumably one of those unicorns that many have heard of but never seen.

A hidden reference to something private? A self-penned anecdote? At any rate, the picture is as yet a puzzle, an unsolvable rebus that challenges our minds and imaginations, forcing spectators to see the picture rather than merely note it.

Prints of six iron ecthings

Only six iron etchings by Dürer’s hand are known today. The Department of Prints and Drawings owns prints of every one of them, even of an unusually high quality - printed before the rust set in!

Usually, graphic artists will use plates made from copper or zinc for etchings, but Dürer chose to experiments with iron plates. Every time he made a print, the inkcovered plate met a piece of damp paper. Eventually this created rust stains that appeared as shadows on the paper.

To an artist as perfectionist as Dürer, this was probably sufficient reason for conclusively returning to woodcuts and copper engraving.

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Details

  • Title: Abduction of Proserpine on a Unicorn
  • Creator: Albrecht Dürer
  • Date Created: 1516
  • Værktekst: Hvad den dybere mening med den her afbildede jernætsning kan være, er det trods megen flid og lærdom vistnok endnu ikke lykkedes nogen at finde en helt tilfredsstillende forklaring på. Man har forgæves ledt efter et litterært forbillede i de klassiske myter og tyske sagn. Billedets uløselige billedgåde En ridende nøgen mand med vildtvoksende hår og skæg og en udtalt fysiognomisk lighed med Dürer selv griber her en ligeledes nøgen, højbarmet kvinde og bortfører hende på et hornet, hestelignende fabeldyr, velsagtens en af disse enhjørninger, som mange har hørt om, men ingen nogen sinde set. En skjult henvisning til noget privat? En selvopfunden anekdote? I hvert fald indtil nu en rebus, en uløselig billedgåde, der udfordrer tankevirksomhed og fantasi og tvinger beskueren til at se og ikke bare konstatere. Tryk af seks jernætsninger Fra Dürers hånd kendes kun seks jernætsninger. Kobberstiksamlingen ejer tryk af dem alle, tilmed af usædvanlig høj kvalitet – før rustpletter! Normalt benytter grafikeren en plade af kobber eller zink til sine raderinger, men Dürer valgte at eksperimentere med nogle af jern. Hver gang han tog et tryk, mødtes den indsværtede plade med et stykke let fugtet papir. Efterhånden dannedes der rustpletter, der kunne aflæses som skygger på papiret. For en kunstner af Dürers perfektionistiske støbning var det sikkert tilstrækkelig grund til, at han igen helt helligede sig arbejdet med træsnit og kobberstik.
  • Teknik: Jernætsning
  • Proveniens: Erhvervet før 1887
  • Provenance: Acquired before 1887
  • Physical Dimensions: w23 x h39.3 cm (Without frame)
  • Dansk link: http://www.smk.dk/index.php?id=1293
  • Dansk Titel: Proserpinas rov
  • Type: Line etching
  • Rights: Statens Museum for Kunst, http://www.smk.dk/en/copyright/creative-commons/
  • Medium: Iron etching

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