Image: 19 x 7.9 cm (7 1/2 x 3 1/8 in.)
Dudley P. Allen Fund 1964.29
Catalogue raisonné: Meder 30a
The monkey portrayed here can be identified as a Barbary macaque, which the artist may have seen as part of a zoological collection in Germany.
Catholic theology during the Renaissance taught the Virgin Mary as a woman born without original sin, an idea manifested in botanical and zoological symbols. Albrecht Dürer portrayed the Virgin and Christ child within a garden enclosed by a low wood gate. Mary gazes down at her son, who holds a bird with his left hand, a symbol of the souls he
will save through his Crucifixion. The tamed monkey, chained to the fence, is an accurate zoological study (probably a Barbary macaque) with a theological role: associated with bodily pleasure, it shows the power of Mary’s virtue over Eve’s sin.
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