Albrecht Dürer


The Passions usually mean physical and spiritual suffering of Jesus Christ in the last days of his life as a human. This subject was especially popular in Germany in 15th–16th centuries. The Church used the art, especially the woodcut prints, to tell the often illiterate people about the last days of Christ’s life. Already in the Middle Ages the iconography of all the stories was well developed and could be easily recognized. Albrecht Dürer, while depicting the Passions, could add something to the traditional iconography or increase the number of stories depicted.

The cycle Small Passion that the artist started after his second journey to Italy (1505–1507) consists of 36 woodcuts and a cover page. It is a very detailed story of martyrdom and the atoning death of Christ, and the artist started it with the scene of The Fall. The cycle included not only the Passions but also some stories from the Old Testament linked with the expiatory sacrifice of the Saviour and some legends about the youth of Jesus.

The first edition was published in 1511, with the Latin text on the reverse; in Venice, in 1612, it was published with the Italian text. The Small Passion was incredibly popular in different countries of Europe. The prints from it were republished till the 20th century, as a full cycle or as separate sheets.

All the plates, except for the cover page, are preserved in the British Museum in London.

The prints of this cycle preserved in the collection of the Pushkin Museum of Fine Arts were published mostly in the second half of 16th –17th century, with the exception of the sheets 11, 30 and 36 which are from the 1511 edition.