The Nativity
engraving, circa 1471-73, on laid paper, watermark Trimount with Staff and Cross surmounted by a Crescent (Lehrs 15), a good but later impression
Plate & Sheet 259 x 170 mm.
Georg Hamminger (d. circa 1895), Regensburg (Lugt 1159); his sale, Helbing, Munich, 21 October 1895 (and following days), lot 1307.
Bartsch 4; Lehrs, Hollstein 5
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Lot Essay

Max Lehrs considered this Nativity one of the Schongauer's greatest achievements as a printmaker, 'and possibly of German art as a whole'. In his view, Schongauer in this print found a new, harmonious composition for the conventional elements of this crucial scene of Christianity - the ruins of Salomon's temple, the naked Christ Child resting on the Virgin's coat, Joseph standing humbly in the background holding a candle or lantern, the donkey and the oxen with 'faithful, humanised' glance, the adoring shepherds, the annunciating and the jubilant angels - which would become the example for countless depictions of this scene all over Europe. As Nicholas Stogdon and other, earlier commentators pointed out, this - in Schongauer's oeuvre early - print owes a significant debt to the older Flemish masters, in particular Rogier van der Weyden and in consequence Hans Memling. Undoubtedly however, Schongauer and this delightful print played a crucial role in disseminating the Flemish style of composition through the medium of engraving.

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