About This Artwork

Hans Burgkmair the Elder
German, 1473-1531

Lovers Surprised by Death, 1510

Chiaroscuro woodcut in 3 shades of brown on ivory laid paper
217 x 157 mm

Amanda Johnson and Marion Livingston Endowment, 1997.306

Themes derived from the Dance of Death, a medieval allegory in which Death overcomes people of all ages and levels of society, pervaded German art in the late medieval and Renaissance periods. As the first true chiaroscuro woodcut, Hans Burgkmair's compelling depiction of lovers torn apart by death is a work of pivotal importance. It represents a major cognitive leap on the part of the artist, who was the first to compose an organic three-dimensional composition by juxtaposing and overprinting three tones added by three different wood blocks.

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