Albrecht Dürer, Adoration of the Magi

Artist | Albrecht Dürer (1471-1528) 
Title | Adoration of the Magi, from a series of 20 woodcuts 
Date | 1503 (design of block; this impression mid- to late 16th century) 
Medium | Woodcut on blue paper 
Dimensions | 300 x 212 mm  
Institution | The British Museum, London
Credit line | Donated by Sir Thomas Barlow, 1924, © The Trustees of the British Museum, London 
Theme | Composing Space and Creating Action
Museum number | 1924,0419.1 

Albrecht Dürer (1471–1528) was a painter and printmaker from Nuremberg, whose documented travel to Venice took place between 1505 and 1507. This woodcut belongs to his Life of the Virgin series and depicts the Adoration of the Magi in a setting of ruins. Several mistakes in perspective suggest that the artist designed the plate between 1503 and 1505, before his documented trip to Italy. In Venice, Dürer developed his technique of drawing preparatory sketches on blue paper, which shows the importance of this medium for the city. However, no prints by Dürer on blue paper are known. Indeed, this particular print seems to be an impression from the second half of the sixteenth century, as further underlined by the fact that the plate was worn when this paper was printed. Yet, it demonstrates the far-reaching impact of blue paper and the material’s lasting resonance in association with Dürer. The mid-tone of the paper support enhances the virtuosic carved relief of the then-worn woodblock.