Dancing Peasant Couple

Object Details


Dancing Peasant Couple


Urs Graf (Swiss, about 1485 - 1527)






Pen and gray and black ink; pricked for transfer (recto); Rubbed with black chalk (verso)


20.6 x 14.8 cm (8 1/8 x 5 13/16 in.)

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Creating an interlocking figure eight with their bodies, two dancing peasants fill the page, with the male peasant obscuring his partner's head and pinching her buttock. Urs Graf showed them dancing upon a featureless strip of ground prominently signed and dated with a dynamic insignia of his initials overlaid with the Swiss dagger. Their forms merge at the top and widen to form a pyramid that emphasizes their lower bodies, muscular legs, and wide feet, conveying a powerful sense of energy. Graf's swift, incisive penwork emphasizes the then-commonplace notion that peasants were symbols of the cycles of nature: earthy, fertile, full of vital strength–and often bawdy.

Someone extensively pricked the drawing with holes that follow the outline of the figures and the back has been rubbed with black chalk. Scholars once thought that this pricking indicated that such drawings had been made as designs for prints, with the image transferred onto another surface by rubbing chalk dust through the holes. They now believe that another draftsman pricked the work much later in order to copy it.

Drawings from the J. Paul Getty Museum (May 24 to August 8, 1993)
  • The Metropolitan Museum of Art, (New York), May 24 to August 8, 1993, (Cat. 54)
Drawings from the J. Paul Getty Museum (October 29, 1993 to January 23, 1994)
  • Royal Academy of Arts (London), October 29, 1993 to January 23, 1994, (Cat. 64)
German and Swiss Drawings from the Permanent Collection (June 6 to August 20, 2000)
  • The J. Paul Getty Museum at the Getty Center, (Los Angeles), June 6 to August 20, 2000, (Cat.)
Work and Play: Everyday Life in Drawings; 1520 - 1820 (July 31 to October 14, 2001)
  • The J. Paul Getty Museum at the Getty Center, (Los Angeles), July 31 to October 14, 2001, (Cat.)
A Light Touch: Exploring Humor in Drawing (September 23 to December 7, 2008)
  • The J. Paul Getty Museum at the Getty Center, (Los Angeles), September 23 to December 7, 2008, (Cat.)
Renaissance Drawings from Germany and Switzerland, 1470-1600 (March 27 to June 17, 2012)
  • The J. Paul Getty Museum at the Getty Center, (Los Angeles), March 27 to June 17, 2012, (Cat.)