Click for BBB rating See our Privacy Policy

Welcome to Spaightwood Galleries, Inc.

120 Main Street, Upton MA 01568-6193

For more information or to purchase, please call 1-800-809-3343 or email us at spaightwood@gmail.com

You can follow us on Facebook!
I blog there regularly and announce special events and special sales.
Last updated: 1/25/2017
Home / Gallery Tour 1 / Old Master Drawings and Prints / Gallery Tour 2 / Artists
Gallery News

Old Master Prints: Albrecht Dürer's woodcuts for The Ship of Fools (1494)

Dürer: Apocalypse / Dürer: Large Passion / Dürer: Small Woodcut Passion / Dürer: Engraved Passion / Dürer: Other Passion
Dürer: Life of the Virgin / Dürer: Holy Family / Dürer: Saints and Martyrs / Dürer: Other Images
Ship of Fools 1 / Ship of Fools 2 / Ship of Fools 3 / Ship of Fools 4 / Copies After Durer

German Drawings: Hans Sebald Beham / Virgil Solis / Hans von Aachen / Johann Heinrich Roos
German 16th century printmakers: Heinrich Aldegrever, Jost Amman, Hans Sebald Beham, Hans Brosamer, Hans Burgkmair,
Lucas Cranach, Albrecht Durer, Albrecht Durer (After), Augstin Hirschvogel, Hans Holbein (After), Hopfer Family,
Monogrammist IS with the Shovel, Georg Pencz, Hans Schäufelein, Virgil Solis, Monogrammist W.S. (Wolfgang Stuber?).

"The Sleep of Reason Produces Monsters": Goya’s Caprichos etchings (1799), Durer's Ship of Fools woodcuts (1494), David Deuchar’s etchings (1786) after Hans Holbein’s Dance of Death, John Martin’s mezzotints for Milton's Paradise Lost (1823-25), and Georges Rouault’s Miserere mixed-media intaglios (1922-1928)
In what is considered his first independent commission after concluding his apprenticeship, Durer contributed a number of woodcuts to one of the first European best sellers, Sebastian Brant’s Das Narrenschiff / The Ship of Fools, a humanist work in which wisdom condemns the follies she sees everywhere she looks. By Brant's death in 1521, six German editions had been published using Durer's original woodblocks; there were also seven pirated German editions using copies of Durer's woodcuts. There were also translations—none of which had access to Durer's woodcuts—printed in various modern languages. The Ship of Fools was first published in 1494 as the reform movement, begun in the North as an attempt to renew a rather corrupt church, was about to find its true leader, Erasmus, whose mock encomium, The Praise of Folly (1508), leaves us to wonder whether Wisdom should really condemn folly if Folly is actually condemning folly though her mock praises. Erasmus implies that if Wisdom reeally thought the issue through, she might well change her mind, since, as Folly reminds us, St Paul insists that the foolishness of God is wiser than the wisdom of man. Like Goya’s Caprichos, Durer’s works also illustrate human follies, but from a rather different perspective: unlike Goya, who forces us to see from the perspective of participants in the world’s follies, Durer, following Brant’s lead, invites us to play spectator from the perspective of Wisdom, to mock the fools who never manage to get it right rather than to realize that we too live in a world that always gets it wrong. Most of our impressions are from the 1511 edition (published in Strassburg by Johan Pruss using Durer's original blocks though several are from the 1497 edition and 6 are from the 1520 edition); all are in remarkably good condition (especially considering that they were made before most of Europe even knew that Columbus had discovered what we like to think of as a "New World." (As Prospero, who remembered more of his and the world’s history, says to Miranda, when she, seeing a group of "goodly creatures" for the first time, hails the birth of a "brave new world": "’Tis new to thee.")

The first edition of The Ship of Fools contains 115 woodcuts, some of which are not by Durer. Walter L. Strauss in his catalogue raisonne, Albrecht Durer Woodcuts and Woodblocks, surveys the state of critical dispute about the number of pieces definitely created by Durer and not simply by others treying to imitate his accomplishments. Strauss and Panofsky are the most conservative; Winkler (1928) "who undertook the most thorough examination of the illustrations, concluded that seventy-three are by Durer" and in later editions added 5 more for a grand toatl of 78 by Durer. Wolfgang Hutt's Albrecht Durer 1471 bis 1528: Das gesampte graphische Werk: Druckgraphik (1970), assigns 74 of the woodcuts to Durer; Alain Borer and Ceceile Bon's L'Oeuvre Graphique de Albrecht Durer (1980; identified as "Borer" in the descriptions) prints 78 woodcuts as Durer's. We follow the new catalogue raisonné of Durer's woodcuts for books, Rainer Schoch, Matthias Mende, and Anna Scherbaum, Albrecht Dürer: Das Druckgraphische Werk: Band III: Buchillustrationen (Munchen: Prestel, 2004), here referred to as SMS. This work prints and illustrates each of the 78 works Winkler accepted as by Durer. There is also a complete English translation of Brant's Ship of Fools by Edwin H. Zeydel (NY: Dover, 1944; rpt. 1962); quoations from the individual woodcuts illustrating the various kinds of folly come from Strauss, if included in Strauss, or from Zeydel if not. The typographic ornaments are not by Durer; sometimes we have shown them for their decorative value, sometimes not. The 1497 edition has one on either the right or the left side of the block; the 1511 edition has one on both sides; the 1520 edition was printed without the ornaments.
A Loitering Fool (SMS 266.43, Hutt 1381, Borer 151). Original woodcut, 1494. A good impression on laid paper from the 1511 edition. Image size: 117x84mm. Price: $2250.

The 1511 edition tells us that "Who passes time with fool or child, / Unless he at the jesting smile, / An arrant fool will he be styled."
The Oppressed Fool (SMS 266.48, Hutt 1383, Borer 156). Original woodcut, 1494. A good impression on laid paper from the 1511 edition. Image size: 116x82mm. Price: $1750.

The 1511 edition tells us: "Most fools are under pressure ay, / Those who are fools in many a way, / The donkey rides them every day" (Like the fool who, as Shakespeare's Fool tells King Lear, "carried his ass on his back o'er the dirt," in a foolish reversal of the natural order).
A Fool who mocks God (SMS 266.53, Hutt 1391, Borer 161). Original woodcut, 1494. A good impression on laid paper from the 1511 edition. Image size: 115x82mm. Price: $2500.

The 1511 edition tells us: "Who fears from God no punishment / Because no thunder yet he's sent, / His thunder God on him will vent."
A Fool who mocks God (SMS 266.53, Hutt 1391, Borer 161). Original woodcut, 1494. A good impression on laid paper from the 1511 edition. Image size: 115x82mm. Price: $2000.

The 1511 edition tells us: "Who fears from God no punishment / Because no thunder yet he's sent, / His thunder God on him will vent."
A Tempter Fool (SMS 266.62, Hutt 1400, Borer 170). Original woodcut, 1494. A good impression on laid paper from the 1520 Strasbourg edition, the last printed from Durer's woodblocks. Image size: 116x83mm. Price: $2000.

According to the 1511 edition, "On holidays men go to church / And leave their labors in the lurch / Yet some for work or business search."
The Regretful Fool (SMS 266.63, Hutt 1401, Borer 171). Original woodcut, 1494. A good impression on laid paper from the 1511 edition. Image size: 115x82mm. Price: $2000.

The 1511 edition says, "A fool is he who mourns all day, / For things that he cannot allay, Or rues that he has done some good, / To one who has not understood."
The Regretful Fool (SMS 266.63, Hutt 1401, Borer 171). Original woodcut, 1494. A good impression on laid paper from the 1520 Strasbourg edition, the last printed from Durer's woodblocks. Note the large break in the upper border, center-right. Image size: 115x82mm. Price: $1750.

The 1511 edition says, "A fool is he who mourns all day, / For things that he cannot allay, Or rues that he has done some good, / To one who has not understood."
The Credulous Fool (SMS 266.65, Hutt 1403, Borer 173). Original woodcut, 1494. A good impression on laid paper from the 1520 Strasbourg edition, the last printed from Durer's woodblocks. Image size: 115x82mm. Price: $1850.

The 1511 edition says, "He goes a careless, frivolous way / Who credits what others say: A prater can betray."
The Imprudent Fools (SMS 266.69, Hutt 1407, Borer 177). Original woodcut, 1494. A good impression on laid paper from the 1511 edition. Stains in right margin not affecting the image. The woodcut shows The foolish virgins from the parable of the wise and the foolish virgins.Image size: 115x82mm. Price: $1825.

The 1511 edition tells us: "Who lights his lamp here warm and bright / And lets the oil give cheering llight, That man shall never have delight."
The Crossroads Fool (SMS 266.71, Strauss 13k, Hutt 1408, Borer 178). Original woodcut, 1494. A good impression on laid paper from the 1511 edition. Image size: 112x81mm. Price: $2250.

The 1511 edition tells us: "While o'er the right one finds the crown, / The fool's cap o'er the left is shown, / All fools the self-same way have gone, / They're castigated, they're forlorn."

Spaightwood Galleries, Inc.

To purchase, call us at 1-800-809-3343 (1-508-529-2511 in Upton MA & vicinity) or send an email to spaightwood@gmail.com.
We accept AmericanExpress, DiscoverCard, MasterCard, and Visa.
We also accept wire transfers and paypal.

For directions and visiting information, please call. We are, of course, always available over the web and by telephone (see above for contact information). Click the following for links to past shows and artists. For a visual tour of the gallery, please click here. For information about Andy Weiner and Sonja Hansard-Weiner, please click here. For a list of special offers currently available, see Specials.

All works are sold with an unconditional guarantee of authenticity (as described in our website listing).

Go back to the top of this page.

Visiting hours: Saturday 10:00 am to 5:00 pm and Sunday noon to 6:00 pm and other times by arrangement.
Please call to confirm your visit. Browsers and guests are welcome.