Unusual in the long series of Dürer’s depictions of the Madonna, this painting differs in its motivic structure and the painterly rendition of the head of Mary and the infant Jesus. The gently smiling face of the Madonna derives from the Netherlandish tradition, but the posture of the child, his body twisted on its axis, can be found in the early Italian Renaissance. Also of Italian origin is the powerful corporeality of the infant Jesus, which Dürer generously characterises with soft shadows. In his left hand the infant holds the upper end of a pear, which was considered a symbol of virginity. During his second stay in Venice (1505–1507) Dürer had to a certain degree internalised the ideals of Venetian painting. There is a greater emphasis on painterly rather than graphic representation, and individual details are omitted infavour of the overall impression. The Virgin and Child with a Pear was created during a phase of upheaval in Dürer’s work: between 1513 and 1516, Dürerturned away from painting for a considerable period, creating important graphic works instead. Shortly before this period began, however, he completed another commissioned painting: he created two idealised portraits, Charlemagne and Emperor Sigismund, to decorate a room in Nuremberg’s “Schoppenhaus”, where the imperial regalia were stored before being displayed at the Feast of the Holy Lance, which was celebrated just after Easter. Early 17th-century copies of these decorative paintings are found today in the Treasury of the Kunsthistorisches Museum (GG 2770 and 2771). © Cäcilia Bischoff, Masterpieces of the Picture Gallery. A Brief Guide to the Kunsthistorisches Museum, Vienna 2010


  • Title: Virgin and child with a pear
  • Creator: Albrecht Dürer
  • Creator Lifespan: 1471/1528
  • Creator Nationality: german
  • Creator Gender: male
  • Creator Death Place: Nuremberg
  • Creator Birth Place: Nuremberg
  • Date Created: 1512
  • Style: German Renaissance
  • Provenance: acquired in 1600 by Emperor Rudolf II (?); in the Treasury 1748
  • Physical Dimensions: w370 x h490 cm
  • Inventory Number: GG 848
  • Artist Biography: Though Dürer lamented Germany's medieval conception of artists, Italian Renaissance ideas first came north in a powerful way through him. Dürer initially trained in Nuremberg as a goldsmith, painter, and woodcutter. After visiting Venice in 1495, he intensely studied mathematics, geometry, Latin, and humanist literature. He expressed himself primarily through prints; painting was less profitable, and Lutheran church reformers disdained most religious artworks. Dürer's paintings are few and more traditional than his engravings and woodcuts. In 1498 he published the first book entirely produced by an artist, The Apocalypse, which included fourteen woodcuts illustrating the Book of Revelation. Its vivid imagery, masterly draftsmanship, and complex iconography established his reputation. After visiting Italy again from 1505 to 1507, Dürer's art assimilated Renaissance principles. Despite the impressive scope of his workshop, Dürer left no direct successors, though his easily transportable prints were influential throughout Europe. ©J. Paul Getty Trust
  • Type: paintings
  • External Link: http://www.khm.at/en/collections/picture-gallery
  • Medium: Oil on Wood

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