Samson and the Lion

Albrecht Dürer (German, 1471 – 1528)
Printed circa 1497; this impression late 16th century
Plate : 15 1/8 x 10 7/8 in. (38.42 x 27.62 cm)
Sheet : 16 1/4 x 11 9/16 in. (41.28 x 29.37 cm)
Mat : 20 x 16 in. (50.8 x 40.64 cm)
Credit Line
Hope College Collection
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Born in Nuremberg in 1471, Albrecht Dürer was the son of a goldsmith and learned early in life to work with the tools and materials and tools that he would later use as a printmaker. Dürer traveled to Italy on two occasions and stayed in Venice for a substantial period before returning to Germany, where he created several large-scale woodcuts between 1495 and 1500, including Samson and the Lion. Dürer is considered to be one of the first printmakers to produce woodcuts as stand-alone works of art, rather than as illustrations for books. Dürer employed a distinctive technique and style, which he acquired during his studies in Italy. One of Dürer’s greatest technical accomplishments is his line value, which can be seen throughout this woodcut. Dürer creates spatial planes that distinguish fore, middle, and background through the density of line. He also allows the viewer to distinguish between highlights and shadows by carving thicker and denser lines to indicate shadows. Every line used to depict Samson’s body and clothing in this print is both descriptive and expressive. In Samson’s beard, for instance, every curl and follicle is rendered with deep gouges in the wood and soft carving of the grain. Similarly, there is movement of line within the lion’s mane to underscore the fierce nature of the struggle between man and beast. According to medieval tradition, Samson was considered one of the prefigurations of Christ. This image of Samson killing a lion with his bare hands was interpreted at the time as a metaphor for Christ’s victory over the devil. [Brianne Munch 2018]

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