The Prodigal Son Albrecht Durer Buy Art Prints Now
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Tom Gurney BSc (Hons) is an art history expert with over 20 years experience
Published on June 19, 2020 / Updated on October 14, 2023
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The Prodigal Son is one of Durer's incredible engraving in his lifetime and has remained one of the best art pieces around the globe. It is based on biblical teaching in Luke 15:17.

Therefore, this engraving comes as one of the parable variations about a young man who has aimlessly spent all of his money given by his father and eventually becomes poorer. It is a visualized story Artist Albrecht Durer made and crafted in 1495. This was after Sebastian Brant published a poem on the Gospel parable subject, which Durer read and got inspired to create in his work. One of the most distinctive features of this crafting is the contemporary vision of the artist's main character. But, it doesn't look like the typical image of the prodigal son from the parables. Instead, Durer put his version of the prodigal son in a German-like background or village of the 15th century to emphasize the image's naturalism.

The engraving depicts a young man kneeling on a pile of manure while grazing pigs. Durer's work vividly conveys how hopeless the son's poverty state, which later on came to senses and decided to go back to his rich father to work for him like other servants. Therefore, the viewer can see and feel the mix of emotions the engraving hides. There are old wasted houses marked with holes in the lofts and roofs with rotted boards in the background. Additionally, the engraving shows that the earth is well covered in pools, and cattle are walking around. The background also shows old wheels thrown around, and the hay is lying around without any order. In other words, the engraving furnishings give viewers an impression of some hopelessness in which they can figure out what the prodigal son is going through.

In his work, Durer managed to tell some of the animals' emotions around the prodigal son. As a result, the viewer can comprehend how sad the situation of the young man. Being a religious theme, The Prodigal Son has turned out to be one of Durer's significant works. Today, this engraving of the Prodigal Son is in the Royal Collection Trust. Other engravings crafted by Albrecht Durer during this period were the Horsemen's image of the Apocalypse flying over the souls of dead people. In this case, the artist skillfully visualized his thoughts in images, trying to balance the physical and spiritual. So, if you look at Durer's works, the viewer manages to feel the idea contained in most of his carefully sketched artworks.