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The Cook and his Wife

Accession Number

The Cook and his Wife

Albrecht Dürer

Object Creation Date

Medium & Support
engraving on laid paper

4 1/4 x 3 1/8 in. (10.8 x 7.94 cm);4 1/4 x 3 1/8 in. (10.8 x 7.94 cm);19 1/4 x 14 1/8 in. (48.89 x 35.88 cm);19 3/8 x 14 1/4 in. (49.21 x 36.2 cm)

Credit Line
Museum Purchase

Label copy
Albrecht Dürer
Germany, 1471–1528
The Cook and His Wife
Museum purchase, 1963/1.93
While Durer is perhaps best known for works like Melancolia and St. Jerome in his Study (1513–14), he also produced comic prints. The Cook and His Wife illustrates a tale from a popular collection of parables, Der Ritter von Turn (The Book of the Knight of the Tower, 1493). In this story of deception and discovery a cook is keeping en eel to make for himself but his wife eats it first, persuading him it was stolen by an otter until a magpie reveals her lie. Dürer’s interpretation focuses on the moment of realization: the cook, bursting out of his clothes, listens in disbelief to the magpie perched upon his shoulder while his guilty wife looks out to the viewer. The monumental figures stand in an almost empty space, which focuses attention on the narrative details.
(Gallery Rotations Fall 2012)

Subject matter
The subject for this engraving comes from a popular set of parables, "Der Ritter von Turn," and describes how a cook's wife had secretly eaten an eel that the cook had intended on eating himself. The wife said that an otter had stolen the eel but a magpie told the cook the truth that the wife had eaten it.

Physical Description
Two figures dominate the image with little reference to setting other than a low horizon line and some pebbles in the lower left. A man stands tothe lelft wearing simple tradesman's clothes; in his right hand he holds a ladle and another cooking implement. A knife in its sheath hangs at his waist. On his left shoulder stands a bird wtih wings open that is facing the man. To the right is a woman with a headdress and veil and cloak wrapped over one shoulder and in front of her.

Primary Object Classification

Primary Object Type
intaglio print

Collection Area

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& Author Notes

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