Albrecht Dürer, Woman of Nuremberg, a drawing

Germany, signed and dated AD 1500

This brush drawing in watercolour is a study for the woman's costume. The German inscription tells us that she is a Nuremberg woman dressed for church. A contemporary writer noted that before the Protestant Reformation, 'The piety at Nuremberg is remarkable…The attendance at sermons is enormous, although preaching goes on in thirteen churches at the same time'.

Dürer was obviously fascinated by the woman's head-dress. It is marvellously drawn with the shadows formed by delicate long lines of hatching in pen and ink. The depth of the shadows is reinforced by the blue wash. Called a Sturz in German, her head-dress was made of starched linen held in shape over a frame. Dürer coloured her robes in delicate washes of pale yellow, pink and blue. At the bottom of her robe is a fur trim, picked out in the blue wash and vertical strokes of the pen.

Her facial features are similar to Dürer's wife, Agnes Frey (1475-1539), so it possible that she was the model. Like Dürer, she was from Nuremberg. They had married in 1494.

Dürer made many studies of costumes for his work. This particular drawing was used in his woodcut of the Betrothal of the Virgin in which the figure appears in reverse.

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More information


J. Rowlands with G. Bartrum, The age of Dürer and Holbein: (London, The British Museum Press, 1988)

J. Rowlands and G. Bartrum, Drawings by German artists in, 2 vols. (London, The British Museum Press, 1993)

M. Royalton-Kisch, H. Chapman and S. Coppel, Old Master drawings from the M, exh. cat. (London, The British Museum Press, 1996)

J. Rowlands, Master drawings and watercolou (London, The British Museum Press, 1984)


Height: 316.000 mm
Width: 171.000 mm

Museum number

PD 1895-9-15-973



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