Saint Eustace, c. 1500–1501
Albrecht Dürer, German, 1471–1528
Engraving on laid paper
Sheet (partially trimmed within plate): 13 15/16 × 10 3/8 in. (35.4 × 26.4 cm)
The Edith A. and Percy S. Straus Collection

Habits of Mind

  • COMMUNICATE Verbalize ideas, thoughts, feelings / ask provocative questions / ask for support
  • SYNTHESIZE Analyze and synthesize relationships and information / compare and contrast / understand the micro and macro implications

Writing Stories

Discussion through works of art encourage how to approach ambiguous and complex ideas, thoughts, and feelings. The MFAH offers a democratic space where students and teachers can develop, practice and articulate these habits of mind. Remember that the quality of the conversation is what is important, not finding the artist’s “answer.” Slow down and take the time to make careful observations. Talk about what you notice, and try to avoid jumping to conclusions and interpretations. Be sure to give enough time for silent looking and thinking.

Curriculum Objectives

•  Describe the subject and mood of a work of art.

•  Write a class story about a work of art.

•  Write personal stories describing the meaning of their own works of art.




Language Arts




Connecting to the Work of Art

Subject:  Before his conversion to Christianity, Saint Eustace was a Roman general named Placidus.  One day while hunting, he tracked a white stag that climbed onto a high rock.  Looking up at the beast, Placidus saw an image of the crucified Christ between the animal’s horns.  Placidus decided at that moment to convert to Christianity.  The next day, Placidus, his wife, and children were baptized and he took the name Eustace.

Albrecht Dürer depicts Eustace in fifteenth-century hunter’s garb.  His horse stands nearby and his hunting dogs rest in the foreground.  In the background, a German castle and town sit on a hill.  Eustace is supposedly drawn in the likeness of Emperor Maximilian, the Holy Roman Emperor and Dürer’s patron.

In Saint Eustace, Dürer’s largest print, the artist depicts nature realistically, with many carefully observed details.  The dog, horse, and deer, as well as the foliage, water, stone, and pebbles, are meticulously presented so that the print becomes a tapestry of nature studies.  The attention to perspective is a reminder of Dürer’s studies of Italian Renaissance art, while the detailed landscape background recalls 15th century Flemish paintings.  Dürer explores a range of tones possible within the medium of engraving and creates atmospheric perspective by contrasting darker lines in the foreground with lighter areas that depict the distant objects. For additional information about the Renaissance use of perspective, see the Ferrarese School The Meeting of Solomon and the Queen of Sheba (Teachers’ Guide Grades 4-6, page --).

Engraving evolved in the fifteenth century from the metalsmith’s technique of carving designs on metal.  The image is cut into a copper plate with a burin, a sharp tool with a v-shaped edge.  Lines can be made thinner or thicker by tilting the burin while incising the line.  Once the image is completed, the plate is inked, then wiped with a cloth to remove ink from the surface and push ink into the engraved grooves.  When the plate and dampened paper are run between the two rollers of a printing press, the pressure forces the remaining ink out of the grooves of the plate and onto the paper.

Albrecht Dürer, one of the first geniuses of printmaking, learned engraving in his father’s goldsmith studio.  At the age of thirteen, he was apprenticed to a painter and designer of woodcuts.  After learning the artistic traditions of Germany and Flanders (modern Belgium), Dürer visited Venice in 1494-95 and again in 1505-7, gaining first-hand knowledge of Italian Renaissance art.  Dürer devoted much of the rest of his career to creating monumental and natural figures moving within a convincing three-dimensional space.  He spent the last years of his life editing his writings on art.  His book on proportion was published the year after his death.


•  What objects are portrayed?  How does the artist give information about himself in this print?

•  Discuss the concept of symbolism and how objects in a still life can create a symbolic self-portrait of the artist.

•  Describe the mood of this print. 


•  Have students write stories based on their own still-life prints, describing their lives and the significance of the objects they selected for their still lifes.

•  Bind the students’ prints and stories together in a book.

Resources Available to Order

The Art-To-Go lending library features materials that may easily be integrated across the K–12 curriculum. Resources include DVDs, music CDs, children’s books, study guides, poster sets, and collection-based interpretive materials produced by the KFEC. Educators, community leaders, and docents from throughout Texas are welcome to borrow Art-To-Go resources. To place your order, search the online catalogue and add the selected items to your basket. After you have reviewed your basket, submit the order electronically.

The Learning Through Art program at the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, is underwritten by:

Mercantil Commercebank

The Learning Through Art curriculum website is made possible in part by a grant from the Institute of Museum and Library Services.