Schongauer’s Adoration of the Magi

Convention suggests that it is an "anecdotal detail" included only for the viewer's interest. It has not been recognized however that just as the dragon in Schongauer's engraving of St George "engraves" his own print, so here the claws of the dog scratch out the etched lines of the print which are his own shadow. Thus, every painter paints himself or, perhaps Schongauer suggests, his shadow. The dog, moreover, as an alter ego of the artist is prominently positioned in that corner of the print where artists' signatures would later traditionally appear. It may even be that he intended the three visible legs of the dog to suggest the letter 'M' for Martin.

In the lower right corner of Martin Schongauer's Adoration of the Magi is a seemingly innappropriate detail unrelated to the story, a dog clawing the ground.Convention suggests that an "anecdotal detail" serves only the viewer's interest. It has not been recognized however that just as the dragon in Schongauer's engraving of St George "engraves" his own print, so here the claws of the dog scratch out the engraved lines representing his own shadow. 

Captions for image(s) above:

Schongauer, Adoration of the Magi (c. 1475)

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Thus, every man/dog paints himself too or, perhaps Schongauer suggests, his shadow. The dog, moreover, as the artist's alter ego is prominently positioned in that corner of the print where artists' signatures later appear. And that's why the three visible legs form an 'M' for Martin and the dog's tail an 'S'.

Captions for image(s) above:

Detail of dog from lower right corner of Schongauer's Adoration

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Notes:

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