Until I went to the exhibition of Northern Renaissance drawing and prints in the collections of the École des Beaux-arts in Paris, I had never heard of Urs Graf.1

Well, one cannot know everything and if one did there would be no pleasure of discovery. I can now add Graf to my mentally prepared list when I am asked, by someone echoing Graham Greene’s famous bon mot about the cuckoo clock, to name ten eminent Swiss. The only other nationality of which this condescending question is ever asked is the Belgian, though in the latter case beer or chocolate play the part of the cuckoo clock.

Graf (1485–ca. 1528) was a goldsmith and soldier of fortune who worked in Basel, from where he once had to flee under accusation of attempted murder. He was by all accou ...