Albrecht Dürer was born in 1471 in the artistic and commercial city of Nuremberg. He apprenticed as a painter and printmaker in Nuremberg before setting out on his own in the late 1490s. Travelling across Europe, he quickly garnered a reputation for his immense talents and natural charisma, becoming increasingly popular in Italy where he lived and worked in Venice.
By the 1500s, Dürer had turned his hand from oils to printmaking. Plagued by the pressures his newfound celebrity had placed on painting canvases, the grainy texture of printed ink and the economy of the press drew the artist to wood engraving. Cheap to produce and easily distributed, the woodcut lent itself to popular imagery that could be widely disseminated. Works in this period include The Great Passion and The Life of the Virgin, both published in 1511, and The Small Passion series which was completed between 1509 and 1511. The engraving of the final set of images was undertaken by master craftsmen in Dürer's workshop. Under Dürer's watch, and with his occasional contribution to the cutting, the translation of each image from ink drawing to woodblock was immaculate. First published as a complete set in 1511 with Latin text on the reverse, a second edition was printed from the original woodblocks 100 years later in Venice, 1612 with the Italian text verso.