ALBRECHT DÜRER. KNIGHTS, SAINTS, MYTH 

1 July - 22 August 2021

Scroll for the catalog of the works on display

 

The Bagpiper

Albrecht Dürer
The Bagpiper
1514
Engraving, mm 115 x 73 mm (plate)
Ouvre de Albert Durer. Paris, Amand Durand, c. 1870. Imprimé en taille-douce

 

The same subject is in a pen drawing with a monogram, dated 1514, which was cited for a long time as the preparatory reference for this engraving. In Italian art, this motif has the illustrious citation of Giambologna in the Seated Bagpipe Player at the Museum of Bargello in Florence.


Christ before Caiaphas

Albrecht Dürer
Christ before Caiaphas
1512
Engraving, 116 x 73 mm (plate)
Ouvre de Albert Durer. Paris, Amand Durand, c. 1870. Imprimé en taille-douce

This work is one of Dürer's most appreciated amongst  the series of prints from The Small Passion. The small engraving, dated 1512, represents the scene of Christ being led in front of the high priest Caiaphas, who tears off his garments in anger because he does not have the authority to condemn him. The same composition of the subject can be found in the Breviarum Romanum, printed by Giovanni Varisco in Venice in 1577, proof of the success that Dürer's engravings had among Venetian typographers up to the beginning of the seventeenth century.


Resurrection 

Albrecht Dürer
Resurrection 
1512
Engraving, 117 x 74 mm (plate)
Ouvre de Albert Durer. Paris, Amand Durand, c. 1870. Imprimé en taille-douce

It is part of the so-called series of prints of The Large Passion, one of the most accomplished woodcuts by Dürer. The anatomical study developed through the study of Apollo’s figure is evident in that of Christ, as the author himself writes in his unfinished Lehrbuch der malerei «nello stesso modo in cui loro hanno rapportato la più bella forma di un uomo al loro dio Apollo, così noi vogliamo attribuire la stessa misura a Cristo nostro Signore, che è il più bello degli uomini». (Translation: in the same way they related the most beautiful form of a man to their god Apollo, we want to attribute the same measure to Christ our Lord, the most beautiful of all men).


Saint Eustace   

Albrecht Dürer
Saint Eustace
1501
Engraving, 356 x 254 mm (plate)
Ouvre de Albert Durer. Paris, Amand Durand, c. 1870. Imprimé en taille-douce

It is the largest Durer’s engraving. It depicts Saint Eustace, a Roman general under Trajan who encountered a large stag while out hunting, and had an image of the crucifix Christ between its antlers. 

For a long time critics considered this work to be inspired by Pisanello's subjects, but there is no evidence that Dürer knew them. Instead, there are many citations in contemporary and subsequent Italian artists, such as Circe by Dosso Dossi, the Adoration of the Magi by a young Correggio now in Brera, and Parmigianino, Carracci, up to the dog painted by the seventeenth-century Dandini in the altarpiece of the Assumption of the Virgin and Saints Jacopo and Rocco for the church of the Santissima Annunziata in Florence. As proof of the importance of this work is Vasari’s great compliment «un Santo Eustachio inginocchiato dinanzi al cervio che ha il Crucifisso fra le corna, la quale carta è mirabile, e massimamente per la bellezza d’alcuni cani in varie attitudini, che non possono essere più belli». (Translation: Saint Eustace kneeling before a stag with a Crucifix between its antlers, which is admirable, especially for the beauty of some dogs in the foreground, which cannot be more beautiful).

 

 


Hercules at the Crossroad

Albrecht Dürer
Hercules at the Crossroad
1498
Engraving, 323 x 224 mm (plate)
Ouvre de Albert Durer. Paris, Amand Durand, c. 1870. Imprimé en taille-douce

Although Dürer called this engraving Der Hercules, between the 18th and 19th centuries allegorical interpretations prevailed. 

It is widely accepted that it is a scene deriving from Xenophon's Memorabilia, in which Hercules chooses the path of Virtue (the standing and full dressed woman), who joins him in the fight against Pleasure. 

This is one of Dürer's engravings which was most inspired by Italian art, showing that technical and spiritual change was revealed around 1498, the date in which this work was done. The main source of inspiration is an ancient engraving with the Death of Orpheus from Ferrara, while the figure of Hercules is borrowed from a print by Antonio Pollaiuolo. Once again the group of the satyr and the crouched woman is a tribute to Andrea Mantegna's Combattimento dei marini.

 

 


Knight, Death and the Devil

Albrecht Dürer
Knight, Death and the Devil
1513
Engraving, 246 x 188 mm (plate)
Ouvre de Albert Durer. Paris, Amand Durand, c. 1870. Imprimé en taille-douce

For the realization of this engraving, Dürer is inspired by Erasmus of Rotterdam's Enchiridion militis Christiani, published in Antwerp in 1503. It is a Meisterstiche, which is a master engraving, from 1513. The comparison between this work and a previous drawing makes us appreciate the maturation of studies on the anatomy of the horse, borrowed Leonardo's works. Vasari's praise in Vite is the seal of the success of the sheet  «assottigliando Alberto […] l’ingegno, mandasse fuori alcune carte stampate tanto eccellenti che non si può far meglio; nelle quali volendo mostrare quanto sapeva, fece un uomo armato a cavallo per la Fortezza umana, tanto ben finito che vi si vede il lustrare dell’arme e del pelo d’un cavallo nero: il che fare è difficile in disegno; aveva questo uomo la Morte vicina , il tempo in mano, et il Diavolo dietro; èvvi similmente un can peloso, fatto con le più difficili sottigliezze che si possino fare nell’intaglio». (Translation: he made some printed sheets of such excellence that nothing finer can be achieved; in which he wanted to show what he knew, he made an armoured knight on a horse for human Fortress, so well defined that you can see the shine of the weapons and the mane of the black horse: which is difficult to draw; did this man feel Death near him, an hourglass, the Devil behind; and similarly a shaggy coated hound, made with the utmost complicated/difficult details achieved in engraving).


The Four Naked Women

Albrecht Dürer
The Four Naked Women
1497
Engraving,189 x 132 mm (plate)
Ouvre de Albert Durer. Paris, Amand Durand, c. 1870. Imprimé en taille-douce

This is a piece of artwork with a mysterious subject, which seems to refer to certain fables about witches spread in the German-speaking area between the Middle Ages and the modern age. It is the first engraving Dürer ever made that he dated. If the letters do not give us many indications on the nature of the subject, the study of the female figure is eloquent, in its details, in its acts and from several points of view, which remains a constant in the work of the German master throughout his life. An important reference as an archetype remains the inspiration of a pen drawing by Dürer himself from 1496, the so-called Frauenbad. This work, although not mentioned by Vasari, had great success and fortune in Italian art, in which the most cultured citation was made by Pontormo in the Visitation of Carmignano (c. 1528).


The Sea Monster

Albrecht Dürer
The Sea Monster
c. 1498
Engraving, 254 x 189 mm (plate)
Signed at the bottom center, with watermark

Dürer calls this work Das Meerwunder, the Sea Monster. In the past, critics were enthusiastic about finding a mythological source within the composition, not fully understandable, not even as the Rape of Amymone. The engraving, of around 1498, has vague quotations from works by Mantegna and Peregrino da Cesena, reflecting the influences of Dürer's first trip to Italy. The fortune of some parts of this work can be found in many Italian paintings and engravings. Vasari quotes in the Giuntina edition: «et in un rame maggiore intagliò una ninfa portata via da un mostro marino, mentre alcun’altre Ninfe si bagnano» (Translation: and in a larger copper plate he engraved  a nymph being abducted by a sea monster, while some other nymphs were bathing).


Adam and Eve

Albrecht Dürer
Adam and Eve
1504
Engraving, 252 x 195 mm (plate)
Signed and dated in the top left: << ALBERTUS | DURER | NORICUS | FACIEBAT | 1504 >>

In this work, Dürer's interests for the Vitruvian canons on the proportion of human nature are evident, following his meeting with Jacopo de'Barbari in Nuremberg in the two-year period of 1501-02. Numerous autograph studies have been preserved for this representation, confirming the particular attention that the author had paid to this particular sheet. Dürer's Adam and Eve was a great success, as evidenced by the individual parts of the composition which were taken up in Italian engravings of the 16th century, as in many works of paintings and sculptures, for example in the Circe by Dosso Dossi (now at the National Gallery in Washington), or in the glazed terracotta by Giovanni della Robbia depicting the Temptation of Adam from the Walters Art Gallery in Baltimore.

 


Samson Rending the Lion

Albrecht Dürer
Samson Rending the Lion
1497-98
Woodcut, 380 x 278 mm (sheet) 
Signed at the bottom center

This woodcut, whose woodblock is preserved in the Metropolitan Museum of New York, represents the biblical scene of the Old Testament, when Samson meets a roaring lion in Timnath’s vineyard «the Spirit of the Lord struck him and, with nothing in his hands, he tore the lion to pieces as if it were a kid. But he said nothing to his father or mother about what he had done» (Judges 14, 5-6). Datable to 1497-98, due to the many affinities with the pages of the Apocalypse, the convincing hypothesis has been advanced that the head of Samson may be the citation of Leonardo Da Vinci's Christ carrying the cross, a drawing preserved in Venice and perhaps seen by Dürer during his first trip. 

 


The Torture of Saint John the Evangelist

Albrecht Dürer
The Torture of Saint John the Evangelist
1511
Woodcut, 391 x 280 mm (sheet)
Signed at the bottom center, with watermark

The woodcut represents a passage from the “Legenda aurea” (The Golden Legend). John was persecuted and brought to Rome in chains under the reign of the Roman emperor Domitian. He was thrown into a cauldron of boiling oil from which he miraculously emerged unscathed. This sheet serves as a figurative prologue to Dürer's Apocalypse of 1511, in fact it is precisely after this episode that John retires to the island of Patmos where he waited for the writing of the Apocalypse.


The Four Horsemen

Albrecht Dürer
The Four Horsemen
1511
Woodcut, 392 x 279 mm (sheet) 
Signed at the bottom center, with watermark

Giorgio Vasari and Cristofano Gherardi cite this woodcut in the paintings of the refectory of San Michele in Bosco in Bologna, while the testimony of this work by Dürer lies in the details of Titian's Bacchus and Ariadne (1522-1523). The woodcut is part of The Apocalypse book, dated 1511, and presents a passage of the homonymous book:

«The first four seals are opened by the Lamb, and four horses come out one at a time – a white horse, a bright red horse, a black horse and a pale horse - with their four horsemen, who were given great power over a fourth of the earth, to kill with sword, with hunger, with pestilence and with wild beasts » (Book of Revelation 6 1-8).


The Small Horse

Albrecht Dürer
The Small Horse
1505
Engraving, 162 x 107 mm (plate)
Ouvre de Albert Durer. Paris, Amand Durand, c. 1870. Imprimé en taille-douce

This work must be seen in relation to its companion print with the same subject, called the The Large Horse.

Vasari refers to the two sheets together «et appresso [il 1503], in molte altre carte, cavalli, a due cavalli per carta, ritratti dal naturale e bellissimi». (Translation: and thereafter [1503], in many other sheets, horses, two horses per sheets, portrayed from life and very beautiful).

They represent, as seen in other drawings, Dürer’s theoretical interests, highlighted by a "significant inspiration in Leonardo's previous drawings".

 


The Large Horse

Albrecht Dürer
The Large Horse
1505
Engraving,166 x 116 mm (plate)
Ouvre de Albert Durer. Paris, Amand Durand, c. 1870. Imprimé en taille-douce

This work must be seen in relation to its companion print with the same subject, called The Small Horse, in which Dürer's studies on the proportion of the noble animal are evident, also derived from the works of Leonardo Da Vinci on the same subject. The citation of this engraving is known and debated in Caravaggio's The Conversation of Saint Paul, while the references in the Adoration by Correggio, in Brera, and in the same subject by Jacopo Bassano at the National Gallery of Scotland are less known.

 


The Standard Bearer

Albrecht Dürer
The Standard Bearer
c. 1501
Engraving, 115 x 70 mm (plate)
Ouvre de Albert Durer. Paris, Amand Durand, c. 1870. Imprimé en taille-douce

This soldier carries the standard with the Burgundian emblem of the Order of the Golden Fleece and the sheet dates back to around 1501, when Dürer's interest in studies on proportion were growing. The figure displays the classical contrapposto, where the posture of the torso balances that of the legs, so as to be compared by many to the illustrations of the ancient marble called Apollo del Belvedere, a statue found in the port of Anzio at the end of the 15th century.


The Lady on Horseback and the Lansquenet 

Albrecht Dürer
The Lady on Horseback and the Lansquenet 
1497
Engraving, 106 x 76 mm (plate)
Ouvre de Albert Durer. Paris, Amand Durand, c. 1870. Imprimé en taille-douce

This engraving is described by Vasari: « fece una femmina alla fiamminga a cavallo, con uno staffieri a piedi » (Transl.  «he made a Flemish style female on horseback, with a standing soldier») and can be dated circa 1497. The addition of a meticulous landscape in the background diversifies from Dürer’s other early scenes.  

 


The Promenade

Albrecht Dürer
The Promenade
c. 1498
Engraving, 196 x 121 mm (plate)
Ouvre de Albert Durer. Paris, Amand Durand, c. 1870. Imprimé en taille-douce

Dated around 1498, it is the depiction of one of young Dürer's favourite themes: love and death. The latter lurks behind Durer’s gnarled tree holding an hourglass. Drawings at that time are preserved in Oxford and Frankfurt and are considered the ideas and studies for this scene which, at first glance, hides the inexorable passing of time.


Sol Justitiae

Albrecht Dürer
Sol Justitiae
c.  1499
Engraving, 106 x 76 mm (plate)
Ouvre de Albert Durer. Paris, Amand Durand, c. 1870. Imprimé en taille-douce

The representation is an example of how Dürer's work often uses a literary source for its making, a clear indication of a profound humanistic culture. 

Panofsky describes this aptitude «poteva caricare di un contenuto così intenso una figura singolare, ma relativamente insignificante, e, per contro, calare in una forma visibile un’idea così grandiosa, ma astratta». (Translation: could such powerful content be loaded with a singular but relatively insignificant figure, and, by contrast, such a great idea, but abstract, be identifies into a visible form). The figure in this case is a Sol Justitiae, identified in a passage from Petrus Berchorius' Repertorium morale, the first edition which was printed in Cologne in 1477.

 

 


Saint George Standing

Albrecht Dürer
Saint George Standing
1502-03
Engraving, 112 x 71 mm (plate) 
Ouvre de Albert Durer. Paris, Amand Durand, c. 1870. Imprimé en taille-douce

This engraving by Dürer with Saint George standing triumphant over the dragon is similar to a panel with the same subject by Andrea Mantegna, dated around 1460 and on display at the Gallerie dell’Accademia in Venice.


Saint George on Horseback

Albrecht Dürer
Saint George on Horseback
1505-08
Engraving, 106 x 84 mm (plate)
Ouvre de Albert Durer. Paris, Amand Durand, c. 1870. Imprimé en taille-douce

This engraving, dated after “Saint George Standing”, was started in 1505 and completed after Dürer’s return from his second trip to Italy in 1508. Another of Durer’s works, Saint Eustace, is comparable but the similarity is evident in two of his other works, The Small Horse and The Large Horse.