For the young Nuremberg journeyman artist Albrecht Dürer, it was a life-changing experience when he arrived in Venice in the autumn of 1494. The lagoon city, a trading and art centre, opened his eyes to the new path-breaking achievements of Northern Italian art. He met artists who were also scientists and who frequented the circles of powerful princely rulers, who had knowledge of anatomy and drew from live models, who had mastered the geometric rules of central perspective, who read classical texts and studied artworks of pagan antiquity without Christian prejudices.
We can imagine his experience of Italy behind this light-hearted pen-and-ink drawing of two women walking side by side. The one on the right is wearing a transparent veil and a classical-style dress with a low-cut neckline and girdled under her breast in the latest Venetian fashion. The woman on the left is wearing the bonnet, bodice, apron and dress of a Nuremberg housewife of that period. With her mocking side glance, she seems almost to be making fun of the staid, possibly somewhat conceited Venetian woman, who has laid her precious long train over her arm. Executed with verve and a sure hand, but also with great care, the pen-and-ink drawing bears no relation to a painting, yet is more than a mere costume study. By hatching part of the ground to indicate space, and with the two women evidently interacting, the work gives the impression of a scene the artist had actually observed. In reality, however, it was Dürer's idea to add the lively Nuremberg woman after he had already drawn the Venetian. In doing so, he created an encounter between Nuremberg and Venice, Southern Germany and Italy - in other words, the two artistic regions which had a formative influence on him. After the experience of his first journey to Italy, Dürer set himself the task of harmonising the two regions and linking them to form the synthesis of a new art.