The Four Witches, 1497
engraving on laid paper
19.2 x 13.2 cm; image: 18.8 x 13 cm
National Gallery of Canada (no. 3593)
This print remains an enigma among Dürer's engravings. Different interpretations have followed one upon the other since the seventeenth century, beginning with discussions of the apparent influences of classical mythology or paganism. Among the first prints to be dated by Dürer, its composition recalls, in some ways, the Antique reference of the "Three Graces". Other commentators have seen these four naked women as witches preparing for a Sabbath. In this reading, the skull and bones at their feet represent death and damnation, while the Devil emerges from the flames in the background.