A Mercenary Holding the Banner of the Canton Glarus, 1521
Urs Graf (Swiss, ca. 1485–1529/30)
Pen and brown ink; 11 5/16 x 7 1/2 in. (28.8 x 19 cm)
Promised Gift of Leon D. and Debra R. Black, and Purchase, Harris Brisbane Dick Fund, 2003 (2003.323)
Conceived as part of a series of standard-bearers of the thirteen cantons of the Swiss Confederancy, this drawing depicts a mercenary holding the banner of Glarus, recognizable by the presence of the sixth-century Irish monk Saint Fridolin, who converted the canton to Christianity. The importance given to the saint makes him appear almost alive, but his meek expression contrasts with the vigorous stance of the standard-bearer in his fashionable clothes. Having served some time as a mercenary himself, Urs Graf captured probably better than any other sixteenth-century artist the vitality as well as the brutality of the period. His often unorthodox subjects are matched by his exuberant, calligraphic manner of drawing; this late work is one of the most accomplished examples known.