The Poet Virgil in a Basket, Lucas van Leyden (Netherlandish, Leiden ca. 1494–1533 Leiden), Engraving; first state

The Poet Virgil in a Basket

Lucas van Leyden (Netherlandish, Leiden ca. 1494–1533 Leiden)
Engraving; first state
Sheet: 9 5/8 × 7 7/16 in. (24.5 × 18.9 cm)
Credit Line:
Gift of Felix M. Warburg and his family, 1941
Accession Number:
Not on view
According to medieval legend, Virgil fell in love with the Roman emperor's daughter. One night she promised to raise him to her bedroom in a basket but left him dangling halfway to be mocked by passersby the following day. The tale of the poet Virgil in a basket belongs to a popular fifteenth- and sixteenth-century theme, the power of women. Lucas produced two series of woodcuts and several engravings on this theme, illustrating women's ability to make fools of even the wisest of men. In a characteristic narrative strategy of the artist, Lucas placed the main subject in the background, inviting the viewer to join the onlookers in the foreground as they discuss the event.
This print is one of the artist's most delicately engraved and spatially elaborate works, with a clear distinction between foreground, middle ground, and background. Lucas was famed for his ability to create atmospheric perspective, achieved by lessening pressure on the burin so that the lines become increasingly fine and shallow the further from the foreground they are meant to be.
Felix Moritz Warburg; Donor: Felix Moritz Warburg (American), and his family
The Metropolitan Museum of Art. "The Print in the North," May 06, 1997 - July 13, 1997.

The Metropolitan Museum of Art. "Drawings and Prints: Selections from the Permanent Collection," October 4, 2010–January 3, 2011.

H. X.136; D.136; NH 136, I(a)
Suzanne Boorsch, Nadine Orenstein "The Print in the North: The Age of Albrecht Durer and Lucas van Leyden." The Metropolitan Museum of Art Bulletin. The Metropolitan Museum of Art, vol. 54, no. 4, Spring 1997, p. 45.