In the fourth meeting of Visual Cultures class, the topic was Mannerism and Northern Renaissance. In spite of limited time, we could not discuss the topic deeply, but we had a screening session. We watched a movie Northern Renaissance – Albrecht Durer. In this entire posting, it will only talk about Albrecht Durer, an artist from Northern Renaissance Era.
Albrecht Durer in Four Self-Portraits
Albrecht Durer is a great printmaker of the Holy Roman Empire. He was the first artist from Germany who became an international celebrity, known as a painter also. As genius from Northern Renaissance, he succeeds in express humanism within his works. He could depict the uniqueness of the individual, questioning what it means to be human and the place of. Fall of Man reflects Durer studies of the Vitruvian theory of human proportions and of classical statuary. He rivaled his elder contemporary Leonardo Da Vinci by engravings painting in tonal quality. Another superiority of Durer proved in his Four Self-Portrait.
Self-portrait at 13 is Durer’s exquisite self-portrait made in 1484. It was drawn in silverpoint. In the upper right corner of the drawing, he wrote: “This I have drawn from myself from the looking-glass, in the year 1484, when I was still a child — Albrecht Durer.” He figured himself when he became an apprentice goldsmith in his father’s jewelry shop in Nuremberg. Much to his father’s disappointment, he left the goldsmith shop about a year later for become an apprentice to the prominent Nuremberg artist and printmaker Michael Wolgemut. His experience of working with the tools in the goldsmith shop previously delivered him to the next work as an expert engraver.
Portrait of the Artist Holding a Thistle was made when Albrecht Durer was 22 in 1493. The portrait was painted in oil on vellum and was pasted on canvas several centuries later. Interpreting this work, thistle hold by the artist represents two meanings, first as a husband’s fidelity, which is an engagement present for Agnes Frey, whom Durer would marry the following year; and second is a crown of thorns from Christ’s Passion.
Five years later, in 1498, Durer made the third self-portrait in oil on a wood panel. In Self-portrait at 26, he depicts himself as something of a dandy, with flamboyant dress and a haughty bearing. Actually, it is quite strange that the artist is wearing such nice dress instead he has beard. Durer, probably, tried to represent his new sense of social status in being mature period.
Self-Portrait at 28 Wearing a Coat with Fur Collar was painted on wood panel in 1500, shortly before Durer’s 29th birthday. Compared to the customary three-quarters view, this painting is having religious theme. It characterized by the highly symmetric composition draws attention to the eyes, which gaze directly at the viewer, dark tones in everlasting colors, and the manner in which the artist directly confronts the viewer and raises his hands to the middle of his chest as if in the act of blessing.
As we can see the writing placed at eye-level in the Latin inscription, “I, Albrecht Durer of Nuremberg, portrayed myself in everlasting colors aged twenty-eight years” strengthen the effect. The year “1500” is written directly above the monogram, giving the “AD” a second meaning as Anno Domini, which further reinforces the connection between Durer and Christ. No doubt, the painting is Christ-like self-portrait.
Kleiner, Fred. (2009). Gardner’s Art through the Ages: A Global History