Drapery Study

Albrecht Dürer

Musée des Beaux-Arts de Lyon

Musée des Beaux-Arts de Lyon
LYON, France

In 1503, Jakob Heller, a rich merchant from Frankfurt, commissioned Dürer to create a retable for his city’s Dominican church. According to the contract, the Assumption and Coronation of the Virgin was to appear at the center. Dürer, who entrusted the other parts of the retable to members of his workshop, did not complete the central motif until 1509. This panel, which was lost in a fire in 1729, is known because of a copy by Jobst Harrich. Another great master of German art associated with this order was Matthias Grünewald, who painted four grisaille panels, which can now be seen in Karlsruhe and Frankfurt. The process used to create the whole retable can be recreated from the many studies acquired on the subject—more than twenty of them concerning the central panel. After drawing the overall plan for his painted compositions, Dürer studied certain details in greater depth. This drawing is a drapery study for the Virgin’s cloak. The contrasts between light and shade show how he was influenced by Rhenish engravings, particularly those of Martin Schongauer. However, this work allies Germanic severity with the gentleness typical of Dürer’s art after his time in Venice. This drawing is said to have belonged to Vivant Denon, who also owned the fine drapery study for the seated Christ in Glory, in the Louvre in Paris. A pupil of Ingres, Paul Balze, gave it to the art historian Gustave Gruyer, whose collection was later passed, in part, to the museum in Lyon.


  • Title: Drapery Study
  • Creator: Albrecht Dürer
  • Physical Location: Lyon, France
  • Physical Dimensions: H. 23 ; L. 14 cm
  • Provenance: Melles Gruyer Bequest, 1946
  • Medium: Brush and India ink with white highlights on dark green prepared paper
  • Rights: Image © Lyon MBA - Photo Alain Basset

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