Albrecht Dürer, The dream of the doctor

Albrecht Dürer, The dream of the doctor, engraving, circa 1498

In this splendid work the great artist describes a complex scene destined to make us reflect on the vice of idleness and the salacity created thereof. In a well-heated room, as suggested by the stove, instead of working, an old man falls asleep on a bench. The devil inspires the materialisation of a vision, in the form of the classical Venus, recognisable also by the presence of Cupid. The latter is depicted in the act of climbing on stilts, further suggestion that in an old man lasciviousness, as well as sinful, is futile. In this sophisticated and complex play of references the artist puts a ring on the hand of Venus, citing a widespread legend told in the 12th century and reworked in the 19th century by Heinrich Heine and Prosper Merimee. According to the story the devil, hidden in a beautiful statue of Venus, bound himself, in a sort of engagement, to a young man who, after many vicissitudes was released by a priest and then converted to Christianity.
Dürer’s monogram is on the bottom right. The Bertarelli collection possesses various engravings by the great German artist