Like his Italian contemporaries Michelangelo and Leonardo da Vinci, Albrecht Dürer was a versatile and influential Renaissance artist. He travelled widely, visiting among other places the Netherlands and Northern Italy. In the course of those journeys, he encountered the principles of humanistic philosophy and the innovative artistic idiom of the Early Renaissance. Dürer is best known for his woodcuts and engravings. Prints of his work were widely disseminated and had a profound influence on other artists.
In 1507-1509, he painted a large panel depicting the Assumption of the Virgin and the Coronation of the Virgin for his patron Jacob Heller, a wealthy textile merchant. It was to form part of an altarpiece for a Dominican church in Frankfurt, but the altarpiece has unfortunately been lost. From his correspondence with Heller, we learn that Dürer spent more than a year preparing the work. He made several studies for various parts of the painting. They were all drawn in the same manner, with the brush in black ink, heightened with white, on paper with a coloured ground. Twenty of those studies have survived, including this famous drawing. It shows the two feet on which Dürer based the feet of the kneeling apostle Paul, at lower right in the centre panel of the Heller Altarpiece. In the drawing, we also see the hem of a cloak over the right foot.