Gothic Era

 

 



Albrecht Durer


 



 

   
Gothic Art Map
 
   
   
Exploration:
Albrecht Durer
 
 
    Formative Years: The First Journeys, 1483-1494    
    First Trip to Italy, 1494-1495    
    Durer's Workshop in Nuremberg, 1495-1505    
    Second Trip to Italy, 1505-1507    
    Nuremberg, 1507-1520    
    Journey to the Netherlands, 1520-1521    
    Final Years in Nuremberg, 1521-1528    
    The Self-Portraits    
    Conclusion    
    Chronological Table    
         
    GRAPHICS
 
   
    Exploration: Gothic Era  (Gothic and Early Renaissance)
 
 
 
 
 

 


 


Nuremberg, 1507-1520
 



In early 1507, Durer was again in Venice, and at the beginning of February—the middle of winter—he again took the difficult trip to return to Nuremberg. In the period that followed, he produced several masterpieces: the two very beautiful panels of Adam and Eve, tangible and immediate reflection of his studies on human proportion; great altarpieces - Heller Altar, Landauer Altar; and important works of graphic art.

The first thing he set about doing was to translate, with the help of his friend Willibald Pirckheimer, Euclid's Perspectiva naturalis, which he had acquired in Venice. During the same time, he was dedicated to the plan for a treatise on the theoretical elements of painting, which he had already outlined during his trip to Italy. Following this came a treatise on human proportion and one on horses and architecture. A third treatise was to concern perspective in general, light and color. Having developed the ideas of Italian artists and theoreticians—Vitruvio, Alberti, and Leonardo— in 1508-9, Durer finally began to write and lay out his own concepts, demonstrating once again that he was not only a great artist, but a serious scholar of theoretical problems concerning art.
   

            
 


Adam and Eve
1507
Museo del Prado, Madrid

 
 




 





Adam and Eve


In 1587, both the works were in the collection of Rudolph II, in Prague. From there, they were purloined by Swedish troops and brought to Stockholm. In 1654, Queen Christina donated them to Philip IV of Spain.
There are several preparatory studies Durer made of human proportions, which he had already begun during his second sojourn in Venice: a drawing in which he sketches the Apollo Belvedere; a second drawing, in pen and ink; the engraving in 1504; and finally, the important paintings that we are presently treating. Adam's complexion is slightly darker and less bright than Eve's. His wavy hair, slender legs, the right heel just lifted off the ground, are in perfect balance, according to the classical canon of Polycletus, the contrapposto, rediscovered in the early Renaissance. The whole figure is outstretched in an amorous movement, with slightly parted lips; only the gesture of the right hand hints of Adam's instinctive initial hesitation. Eve, on the contrary, is more active, more concrete: she shows signs of a step and while casting an inviting look to Adam, she gently smiles. Both figures are twisting slightly toward the other. Durer determined to sing the praises of the beauty of the Creation in his presentation of the first human couple. He gave his figures life with a very skilled depiction of movement, thus actualizing one of the finest examples of representation of the human form.
One of the copies of the work, probably by his student Hans Baldung Grien, is found in Florence at the Uffizi Gallery.


Adam
1507
Museo del Prado, Madrid
 

 
    

Eve
1507
Museo del Prado, Madrid
 
   


 


 

Portrait of a Young Man

This painting probably came from the collection of Rudolph II. Durer returned to Nuremberg in the spring of 1507, after his second sojourn in Venice. Opinions differ as to the whereabouts of the painting of this portrait, which demonstrates, on the one hand, all the pictorial characteristics of the Venetian tradition (following in the steps of Giovanni Bellini, according to Winkler, 1929; or Vicenzo Catena, according to Panofsky, 1943), and shows the depiction of a youth wearing a typically Venetian beret, which would mean it was Venice; on the other hand, the type of wood used for the panel, lindenwood, would have its execution in Nuremberg, upon his return. It should be recalled that Durer only used panels of poplar while in Venice, or, rarely, elm. The alternative, regarding the setting and brightness of the portrait being typically Venetian, in fact, is purely speculative.
The portrait almost aggressively approaches the spectator. It is dominated by a light, slightly reddish face, an intense, far-off gaze, a short and robust nose, a wide mouth, and turgid lips surmounted by a hint of downy hair. Even the beard under the chin is delicate and contrasts with the almost frizzy hair, painted with an extremely thin brush. Despite the fact that the painting is not completely preserved in this area, one can still appreciate the extraordinary skill of execution. One appreciates above all the difference between the stroke used for the hair and the one, just as skillful though different, adopted for the hairs of the fur collar, giving a showy trim to the coat. His talent drew praise from the Venetians and particular admiration from Giovanni Bellini. The snow-white of the shirt represents the third note of color of the painting, next to the delicate pink of the flesh and to the black, found in the elegantly worn beret and in the clothing, silhouetted against the similarly black background.
He employs what he learned from Venetian painting and his special talent for painting, with very fine strokes for hair and fur—a talent that markedly distinguishes him from his Venetian colleagues.
Durer thus manages to vivify even a face like this one, that except for the mouth, has rigid and immobile features, and for that, on the whole, is not very expressive.


Portrait of a Young Man
1507
Kunsthistorisches Museum, Vienna

 

 
 

 

Portrait of a Young Girl

This small painting was in the collection of the Imhoff family of Nuremberg, and cited in their inventory from 1573-74 until 1628. In 1633, it was handed over, with the title Portrait of a Young Girl, with other works by Durer, to Abraham Bloemart, an artist and merchant from Amsterdam.
An identical portrait, judging from the description, and cited as a "copy of Durer," was found in the register of the collection of Archduke Leopoldo Gugliemo in 1659.
In 1899, the portrait reappears in London, and the firm P. and D. Colnaghi donated it to the Berlin art gallery (Anzelewsky, 1991). The delicate girl is portrayed with soft, curly blond hair, slightly dreamy her eyes, one somewhat lower than the other, a gentle, melancholic gaze; and welldefined, slightly parted lips. The red
beret, worn sideways, with a little slit to the side, with a long red ruby and black pearl pendant, gives her a slightly cheeky air.
The square green border of the red bodice sets off the upper part of her body. All these details put together have led to various interpretations. In addition to the fact that the "girl," when sold by the Imhoffs, was transformed into a "boy," Panofsky (1955) attributes an androgynous nature to her that could reveal the possible homosexual tendencies of the artist.
A teasing letter of 1507 from the canonical Lorenz Behaim of Bamberg and the fact that the portrait does not seem to have been ordered would support this
hypothesis.
It has also been debated whether the painting was executed in Venice or after Durer's return to Nuremberg. According to Anzelewsky, who considers the clothing to be typically German, there is no doubt as to its provenance. Justi (1902) speaks of a "reconstructed" imaginary portrait; but even if frontal portraits are quite rare for Durer, the many discussions provoked by this would tend to exclude such a possibility.


Portrait of a Young Girl
1507
Staatliche Museen, Berlin

 

 
 
 

Side and frontal view of the female head type 7
Woodcut
Staatsbibliothek, Bamberg


Studies on the Proportions of the Female Body
Woodcut
Staatsbibliothek, Bamberg

    

    


Rear view of the female head type 7
Woodcut
Staatsbibliothek, Bamberg


Figure of Woman Shown in Motion
Woodcut
Graphische Sammlung Albertina, Vienna

  

  


Hand
Woodcut
Staatsbibliothek, Bamberg

 





 


Emperor Charlemagne and Emperor Sigismund
c. 1512
Germanisches Nationalmuseum, Nuremberg

 

 

The Idealized Portrait of the Emperor of Charlemagne

This painting, and the one following, were commissioned to Durer bv the council of the city of Nuremberg around 1510, to substitute for the old portraits of the emperors of the Heiltumskammer (the room of the insignia) in which the imperial insignia (crown jewels) were preserved. Three drawings are preserved from the studies Durer did of the insignia (W 505-7). In all likelihood, after having executed a detailed drawing in the form of a diptych (W 503), the master entrusted much of the execution of the portraits to his workshop. Even on the retro, various coats of arms are found and an inscription that refers to the preservation of the insignia.
  
The Emperor Sigismund

It is said that it was Emperor Sigismund to grant the imperial insignia to the city of Nuremberg. His image in the present portrait is smaller than that of Charle-
magne, possibly because of the greater encumbrance of coats of arms, more numerous here. The posterior sides of the two portraits, with coats of arms and inscriptions, appear equal from a formal point of view.
In 1526, on orders of the town council, the two portraits were brought to the town hall from the Heiltumskammer, which was in the market square in the adjacent house, Schopperhaus, where the imperial insignia were kept each year for some time.
 






 

Madonna of the Pear

Inscription in the top right, monogrammed and dated 1512 Lindenwood, 49 x 37 cm Vienna, Kunsthistorischcs Museum 1512
Its provenance is probably the same as that for the Madonna Nursing, preserved in the same museum. A refined variety of details encircle the delicate face of the Virgin: the curls, the veil, and the ribbon across the forehead. The drawing of the eyes and eyebrows is sharp, and the red lips are well defined. Bowing her head tenderly toward her child and bestowing on him an extremely sweet smile, she presents him to the spectator. He lies on a sky-blue cloth, under which she hides her hands so as not to touch him, as one would not touch a precious jewel.
There has always been much discussion about the difference between the deli-cateness of Maria's face and the robust plasticity of the Herculean body of the child, likewise, about the differences in the pictorial technique adopted for each one: a much more physical depiction of the child than the mother. Much has been said about the marked torsion in the body of the little boy, which is splendid both in terms of formal and chromatic considerations. Other similar examples exist in Durer's paintings and drawings. But no one, until now, has tried to resolve the meaning of the painting, or the presence of the cut pear ostentatiously presented by the child. His limpid and open gaze knowingly peers into the far distance. The pear as an attribute of Christ and Maria is not rare in Venetian painting of the Renaissance, and it appears in all Italian painting; following an interpretation of Bernardo di Chiaravalle of the Cantico dei Cantici, the sweetness of the taste symbolizes the sweetness of mouth and heart, which are, according to Saint Bonaventure, the gifts of the wise (Levi d'Ancona, The Garden of the Renaissance, 1977). Even Durer depicted it (1509) in the middle of other fruits in a basket at Maria's feet, in the drawing of the Holy Family under the Loggia (W 466). The unusual fact in this painting is that the pear in the child's hand is cut and bitten into. However, wisdom and sweetness are certainly the principal themes of this delightful small devotional image.


Madonna of the Pear
1512
Kunsthistorisches Museum, Vienna

 

 

 

 

The Madonna of the Carnation

In 1630, this panel was mentioned in the inventory of the possessions of the elector of Bavaria; it subsequently went to the episcopal palace of Freising, but it returned definitively to Munich in 1802. The main part of the space of the painting is occupied by the Virgin's head, encircled by a luminous halo against a dark green background. The perfect regularity of her face as seen from the front leads one to think that, like the Self-Portrait with Fur Coat of 1500 of Munich, this has been "reconstructed" according to precise laws of proportion. The Madonna's gaze—her eyes reflecting, like her child's, the window beside them—is not turned toward the spectator, but is directed into the distance. Even the child has a fixed gaze and is busy with a pear in his little hands, while the Madonna gracefully holds a stem of a carnation, with fruit and flower, between her fingers. Similar to the Madonna, who, for the rigid, formal composition of the head seems distant, almost rapt in an ideal world, so the child, with his wide-open eyes, who seems detached from his mother and the spectator. The small panel assumes the look of an icon, in which the carnation alludes to the Passion, and the pear that the child closes in his hands recalls—according to Saint Bonaventure—the sweetness of the wise of mouth and heart.


The Madonna of the Carnation
1516
Alte Pinakothek, Munich
 

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