Albrecht Dürer's Noli Me Tangere by Mary Elizabeth Podles

A THOUSAND WORDS

Albrecht Dürer's Noli Me Tangere

It is sometimes pleasing to an art historian of not very large stature to see how a small image can make a big impact and reverberate through the ages. Albrecht Dürer's Small Passion of 1511 is a series of 37 woodcuts, each measuring no more than four by five inches. Dürer published two other Passion series, one of eleven scenes and the other of fourteen, each depicting the events between the Agony in the Garden and the Resurrection. In the Small Passion, however, he sets his personal interpretation of the Passion drama into the whole history of salvation, from the Fall of Man to the Last Judgment.

Dürer's prints were designed to work in tandem with a series of clever (but frankly forgettable) Latin poems by the German Benedictine monk Benedict Schwalbe, each one a paraphrase of the relevant scriptural text. But Dürer's images are in no way forgettable. It is as if he has imagined himself as an eyewitness, picturing the impact Jesus has on followers and enemies alike.

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Mary Elizabeth Podles is the retired curator of Renaissance and Baroque art at the Walters Art Museum in Baltimore, Maryland. She and her husband Leon, a Touchstone senior editor, have six children and live in Baltimore, Maryland.

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