There had been no one at Nuremberg skilled enough in the art of metal-engraving to teach it him to much purpose, and it had at one time been his father's intention to apprentice him to Martin Schongauer of Colmar, the most refined and accomplished German painter-engraver of his time.
But after travelling two years in various parts of Germany, where we are unable to follow him, the young Darer arrived at Colmar in 1492, only to find that Schongauer had died the previous year.
Of works certainly executed by him during his years of travel there are extant, besides the Basel wood-block, only a much-injured portrait of himself, very finely dressed and in the first bloom of his admirable manly beauty, dated 1493 and originally painted on vellum but since transferred to canvas (this is the portrait of the Felix Goldschmid collection); a miniature painting on vellum at Vienna (a small figure of the Child-Christ); and some half a dozen drawings, of which the most important are the characteristic pen portrait of himself at Erlangen, with a Holy Family on the reverse much in the manner of Schongauer; another Holy Family in nearly the same style at Berlin; a study from the female nude in the Bonnat collection; a man and woman on horseback in Berlin; a man on horseback, and an executioner about to behead a young man, at the British Museum, &c. These drawings all show Diirer intent above all things on the sternly accurate delineation of ungeneralized individual forms by means of strongly accented outline and shadings curved, somewhat like the shadings of Martin Schongauer's engravings, so as to follow their modellings and roundness.
In copper-engraving Diirer was at the same time diligently training himself to develop the methods practised by Martin Schongauer and earlier masters into one suitable for his own self-expression.
In the earliest of the Madonnas, the "Virgin with the Dragon-fly" (49549), Diirer has thrown something of his own rugged energy into a design of the traditional Schongauer type.
' Another painting of the same subject in the Doria Palace in Rome (usually attributed to Darer) is given to Schongauer by Crowe and Cavalcaselle, Flemish Painters (London, 1872), p. 359; but the execution is not equal to Schongauer's wonderful touch.
According to a German tradition Schongauer was the inventor of printing from metal plates; he certainly was one of the first who brought the art to perfection.