Young Woman with an Old Man and a Youth, by Urs Graf, ca.1511


Source: British Museum 1875,0710.1455

Mercenary love; a young woman standing at a table with an old and a young man; on the table a set of backgammon, playing cards, a lute, fruit and a goblet, below a large skull and bones with inscribed banderole. c.1511 Woodcut

Urs Graf was a prolific printmaker, producing mainly designs for book illustrations. His single-leaf prints are remarkable for their inventive treatment of various subjects often to do with the relations between the sexes. During his life, Graf was frequently in trouble with the authorities in Basel for various offences, including beating his wife. His drawings are often satirical attacks against women. The theme of mercenary love, where young women marry or exchange sexual favours for money, was very popular during the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries. Here an old man gropes a young girl and as payment she takes money from his sack to give to the young man at her side. This is the only known impression of this print. From M. McDonald, 'Ferdinand Columbus: Renaissance Collector', London, 2005., no.91.
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