Albrecht Dürer (1471-1528), Young Couple Threatened by Death (The Promenade), c.1498, print, 8 x 5 inches. Brigham Young University Museum of Art, purchase/gift of the Mahonri M. Young Estate, 1959.
Albrecht Dürer is one of the great printmakers of all time. He was a participant in the Protestant Reformation and shared Martin Luther’s outrage at the excesses of the Church.
Today’s work suggests a cautionary tale or vanitas image wherein a young man looks adoringly at his companion, entreating her to accompany him further along their chosen path. These richly-dressed lovers are in considerable peril, for the monstrous embodiment of death mocks their amorous attraction and leers at their fashionable vanity. Death celebrates the brevity of the lovers’ happiness, suggesting via his hourglass that their mortality is quickly slipping away. Dürer’s warns that judgment could come unexpectedly to anyone at any time.