Coat of Arms with a Skull
A coat of arms coupled with a wildman and young lady fuses themes of memento mori, young woman and death, and the ill matched couple. A tour de force of humanist wit, Dürer has engraved his monogram on a tablet below the coat of arms and the date 1503 on the block under it. An elegantly dressed young woman in bridal crown is being embraced by a wildman, a creature of unbridled passions, who holds a staff on which an enormous coat of arms is balanced on a strap. Wildmen are commonly depicted as bearers of heraldic arms in late medieval art. She toys with the strap of the helmet, impressed by the splendor of chivalry, but unaware of what the coat of arms depicts. The huge metal helmet with winged crest (symbolizing victory) and plumes is precariously resting on one corner of the shield with its skull insignia, as martial victory and death are closely paired. Scholars thus interpret the print as an allegory of love and death, a memento mori of the fleeting nature of life. The wildman fiancé, symbol of fecundity, leads the girl into a dance of death rather than a bridal dance. This enigmatic engraving may also allude to contemporary politics as the daughter of the Duke of Bavaria temporarily conquered much territory around Nürnberg in 1503, but lost everything when she was defeated.