The Sea Monster; or, "Das Meerwunder"

Illustrated by Albrecht Dürer



Known to the modern world as "The Sea Monster", Dürer knew this work, in his own language, as "Das Meerwunder".


This image is understood to have been prepared in, or about, 1498 during a five year period of intense productivity

leading up to 1500.


As with some other of Dürer's illustrations, his personal inspiration for the illustration is not known to have been

recorded. While many rationale have been proposed, an informative discussion of the image and its iconography has

been undertaken by Panofsky (The life and art of Albrecht Durer: Princeton University Press; 1945):


The engraving ... shows the abduction of a nude girl from her bathing place. The abductor

is a fabulous being, half man, half fish, embellished by a long white beard and little antlers,

and carrying a tortoise shell and a jawbone for weapons. The companions of his victim seek

the shore in terror; her mother wrings her hands; her father, dressed in oriental garb, runs

toward the edge of the water with futile gestures of despair. The maiden herself, apparently

much less perturbed that her entourage, reclines on the fish-tail of her abductor, displaying

her beauty in a pose all' antica and limiting the expression of her grief to a low sob or moan.


No doubt a certain similarity in theme, in general arrangement and in such details as the

frightened girls in the background exists between this engraving and the Europa drawing of

about 1495. It is thus doubly tempting to explain the print by an analogous classical myth.

But neither the legend of the Argive princess Amymone nor the Ovidian tale of Achelous

and Perimela agrees with the factual evidence; and Dürer himself, who elsewhere by no

means avoided mythological nomenclature, calls the engraving simply "Das Meerwunder"

("The Sea Monster"). The inference is that it does not represent a definite mythological

incident but one of those anonymous atrocity stories which, though ultimately of classical

origin, were currently reported as having taken place in recent times and in a familiar

environment. Poggio Bracciolini, for instance, relates a tale wherein the horrifying story of

a Triton, told in Pausanias's description of Tanagra, is transferred to the fifteenth century and

to the coast of Dalmatia. A monster, half human, half piscine, with little horns and a flowing

beard, was in the habit of abducting children and young girls enjoying themselves on the

beach, until it was killed by five determined washerwomen. Its "wooden form" (it is not

known exactly whether a carved image or the monster itself in a state of extreme desiccation)

was on display in Ferrara - Poggio had seen it with his own eyes - and silenced every sceptic.


This tale fits in with Dürer's engraving to a remarkable degree, and there is every reason

to believe that it, or a similar yarn, is responsible for the iconography of the "Meerwunder".

Dürer may have divined the classical core beneath the veneer of modern pseudo-reality, and

the subject may have conveyed to him and to his public the idea of "unregenerated sensuality,"

as did the Centaurs and Satyrs found in the decoration of medieval cloisters and church

façades; but it seems fruitless to scan the classics in search of a specific appellation.


Regardless of the explanation behind Dürer's illustration, it is undoubtedly a true Masterpiece that is packed with




How to purchase our Greeting Cards and large format reproductions


When presented on Greeting Cards, this image is prepared as a tipped-on plate - in hommage to the hand-crafted

approach typical of prestige illustrated publications produced in the early decades of the 20th Century. Each card is

hand-finished, with the image presented on White card stock with an accompanying envelope. On the rear of each

card we also present some information about Albrecht Dürer and this wonderful illustration. We have left the interior

of the cards blank so that you may write your own personal message.


Each of our large format reproductions are prepared with archival quality materials and processes to ensure many years

of enjoyment. In addition, our reproductions are accompanied by explanatory material relating to Albrecht Dürer and

this wonderful illustration.


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In the meantime, enjoy perusing this wonderful illustration by Albrecht Dürer.



The illustration



Single Greeting Card (with matching Envelope)

Price: US$5.00


Reproduction on 8x12" sheet

Code: AD SM (8x12)
Price: US$30.00


  Reproduction on 12x18" sheet

Code: AD SM (12x18)
Price: US$60.00




Some details from the illustration


The Sea Monster The Maiden Detail of the seaside town