Details
HANS SEBALD BEHAM (1500-1550)
Death and the standing nude Woman
engraving, 1547, on laid paper, without watermark, a good impression of this rare print, third, final state, trimmed to the subject, tiny defects at the lower sheet corners, otherwise in good condition
Sheet 74 x 49 mm.

References:
Bartsch 150
Pauli, Hollstein 151

Please note this lot is the property of a private collector.
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Lot Essay



Hans Sebald Beham’s engraving Death and a standing nude Woman encapsulates the theme of this collection – Eros and Thanatos, Love and Death - on a tiny scale. The whole image has not even the length of a finger. It is a shocking image: exquisitely engraved with tiny lines and dots, a beautiful nude woman stands in front of a distant landscape while a winged figure of Death, muscular yet with a skull for a head, grabs her from behind. Next to them on the floor stands an hourglass and a stone pillar engraved with the words "OMNEM HOMINE VENUVSTATEM MORS ABOLET" (‘All human beauty is abolished by Death’). What sets Beham’s little print apart from other Vanitas, or memento mori, images is the intensely erotic overtone. This is not Death forcefully snatching a young woman from the midst of life, this is a lustful embrace.

In 1525, Sebald Beham and his brother Barthel, together with another possible apprentice of Albrecht Dürer’s, Georg Pencz, were arrested in Nuremberg and charged with ‘ungodly’ activities. It appears that they were sympathisers of the radical reform preacher Thomas Müntzer. They were banned from the city, but returned a year later, only to be banned again for the distribution of sinful images. Beham and his circle are indeed remarkable for their explicit depictions of nudes. It must have been the subversive nature of their imagery that made them choose such a private, intimate medium: tiny little engravings of jewel-like precision, which earned them the nickname by which they are known today: The Little Masters.

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