Study of the Good Thief

Object Details

Title:

Study of the Good Thief

Artist/Maker(s):

Albrecht Dürer (German, 1471 - 1528)

Culture:

German

Date:

about 1503 - 1505

Medium:

Pen and brown ink

Dimensions:

26.8 x 12.7 cm (10 9/16 x 5 in.)

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As he hangs suspended from two nails on the cross, the weight of the man's figure brings his torso forward. With straightened legs, a protruding belly, and taut arm muscles, every part of his body seems to strain towards the viewer. Even the cross bows forward, accentuating the tension in the position. The man's sorrowful expression suggests that Albrecht Dürer intended this as a drawing of the good thief, who repented his crimes as he hung dying on the cross beside Christ.

Dürer made this drawing in the studio; the forms became better defined as he went over the contours, outlining the body, chest, and abdomen with a stronger stroke. He then modeled the figure in three dimensions, using a combination of thin, parallel lines, cross-hatching, and short, rapid, repeated strokes. He probably drew the cross in last, after the figure was completed. The overall level of finish shows that Dürer considered this a preparatory study, a place to work out a basic pose and proportions before making a woodcut, engraving, or painting.

Exhibitions
Drawings from the J. Paul Getty Museum (May 24 to August 8, 1993) (40)
  • The Metropolitan Museum of Art, (New York), May 24 to August 8, 1993
Drawings from the J. Paul Getty Museum (October 29, 1993 to January 23, 1994) (62)
  • Royal Academy of Arts (London), October 29, 1993 to January 23, 1994
Figure Drawings (December 17, 1996 to April 6, 1997) (62)
  • The J. Paul Getty Museum, (Malibu), December 17, 1996 to April 6, 1997
German and Swiss Drawings from the Permanent Collection (June 6 to August 20, 2000) (62)
  • The J. Paul Getty Museum at the Getty Center, (Los Angeles), June 6 to August 20, 2000
Renaissance Drawings from Germany and Switzerland, 1470-1600 (March 27 to June 17, 2012) (62)
  • The J. Paul Getty Museum at the Getty Center, (Los Angeles), March 27 to June 17, 2012