German Artist: Albrecht Durer

German School. One of the greatest masters of painting and engraving.


DURER’s FATHER Half length, full face, small. The face, close shaven, is wrinkled; the hair long and curly, falling from under a black cap with turned-up ears He wears a loose brown coat lined with black fur over a black undervest. The hands are almost entirely hidden under the loose sleeves. Red background. Dated 1497.

Probably one of four contemporary copies or replicas of a lost original, the others being at Munich Frankfort and Syon House. Presented to Charles I. bY the citizens of Nuremberg, and sold from his collection, together with Durer’s self portrait at Madrid (see below), for L100.

HAMPTON COURT PORTRAIT OF A YOUTH Bust length to left, a young man with a long nose, and fair, thick woolly hair falling on each side of his face from beneath a plain black cap. Signed and dated 1505.

In the collection of Charles I.


DURER’S FATHER Bust length, turned half to left, showing the two hands holding a coral necklace. Signed and dated 1490. The earliest instance of the monogram signature which he used all his life.

THE ADORATION OF THE KINGS Upon the pavement in front of ruined buildings ranging along the left side of a road which leads through an archway in the right background to a precipitous hill covered with buildings, the Virgin and Child and the three Kings are grouped as simply and naturally as if they were peasants. The conventional pomp and circumstance are entirely absent, and only the apparel proclaims the occasion. The Virgin is comfortably seated on a stone on the left in profile, her arms round the Child as He leans forward to receive the offering of the aged Caspar, who kneels before Him fronting us. Immediately behind him stands Melchior, and on his left the negro Baltazar. Both are fronting us, each with his offering in his right hand, and in his left Baltazar has an ostrich feather. His figure is clear of the rest, and seen at full length against the pavement. Only under the arch in the background are faint indications of the royal retinues discernible. Painted in 1504 for the castle church at Wittenberg.


ADAM AND EVE Two panels; both figures full length, facing us, against a plain dark background. Adam, a youth with flowing hair, turns his head slightly to our right, his lips slightly parted. His left arm is bent, the hand holding a small branch, the right held downwards with the fingers outstretched. Eve stands by a tree, her left arm bent as she holds up an apple to the serpent coiled in the branches, while her right hand rests on a small bough which extends from the tree trunk behind her, below which hangs a cartellino inscribed: “Alberg Durer, 1507.”

Similar panels are in the Pitti Gallery (Nos. I and 20), which also claim to be originals. They have backgrounds of landscape with animals.

SELF PORTRAIT Half length, standing half to right, but with eyes meeting ours, behind a stone ledge on which he rests his elbow and crossed hands. He has long brown hair falling in fine curls over his shoulders, and a soft, youthful beard and moustache. He wears a broadly striped black and white cap, a soft white shirt over which is an open tunic with striped sleeve, and over the left shoulder a mantle held in place by a black and white cord across the breast. Behind is a window in a plain wall, showing a mountain landscape, under which is written:

“Das malt ich nach meiner gestalt Ich war sex und zwandzig jar alt. ALBRECAT DURER,1498.”

A replica of this is in the Uffizi Gallery, Florence.


THE PAUMGARTNER ALTAR-PIECE The central panel, measuring 1.52 x 1.23 is a picture of the Nativity. Amid the ruins of rambling Romanesque buildings, at the base of a wooden support of an open pent-house, the Child lies, with little angels at His head, looking up at the Virgin, who kneels above Him on the right.

On the left is Joseph, also kneeling. Through an archway at the back two shepherds are approaching, and behind them is seen a landscape. In the right foreground lies a large axe.

On the wings (each 1.53 x 0.87) are the knightly figures of (as is supposed) Lucas and Stephen Paumgartner standing at full length in half armour, one as St. Hubert, the other as St. George with the dragon, holding their lances with the butts on the ground and their pennants attached to the heads. Fanciful backgrounds were painted on the panels in the seventeenth century, and appear in the reproduction in Knackfuss’s monograph, 1899.

Painted about 1500 for the Paumgartner family at Nuremberg.

PORTRAIT OF OSWALD KRELL Half length, slightly to left, a young man with long, thick curly hair looking sharply downwards to the right. He wears a black velvet tunic, open in front, showing his bare chest and a small edge of white shirt; and a mantle trimmed with brown fur over his right shoulder, the edge of which he grasps with his left hand at his waist, while his right rests near it on the base of the picture. Behind him is a plain red wall, and on his right beyond it is seen a stream winding through a meadow shaded by tall trees.

Painted in 1499.

SELF PORTRAIT Bust length, full face, with long curls falling on his shoulders, and slight moustache and beard. Thick lips, and the left eye a little higher than the right. He wears a cloak trimmed with fur, to which he presses his right hand, with the fingers pointing upwards.

Painted in 1509, when he was thirty-eight years old.

ST. JOHN AND ST. PETER The Evangelist at full length stands in profile to right in a long red robe reading a small book which he holds open in his right hand. Above the book is seen the bowed head of St. Peter full face, and a large key which is held in his left hand.

ST. PAUL AND ST. MARK St. Paul at full length stands in profile to left in a long white robe. In his right hand is a long sword, the point resting on the ground, and on his left forearm he supports a large volume. Above the volume is seen the head of St. Mark, who is looking up at St. Paul, and his right hand clasping a small scroll of paper.

These two panels were painted in 1526, being the master’s last works in painting.

“He now felt that the days of his strength for artistic work were numbered. Before the end came he wanted to leave a work of art as a legacy to his beloved native city, and for this purpose he chose the subject of the Apostles. It was in a deeply serious mood, but with the energy of youth, that he created these majestic life-sized figures, in which his power of depicting character appears at its full height.” (Kanckfuss.)

THE DRESDEN ALTAR-PIECE Unlike any other altar-piece, this work consists of a minutely detailed painting, about 3 feet square, of the interior of a room seen through a wide opening, on the ledge of which (on the left) lies the Holy Child on a white pillow with the Virgin, seen at half length, bending over Him. Her hands are joined in adoration, touching the cushions. At the other end of the ledge is an open book on a desk. Through a large window in the back wall of the room to the right the street is visible, and to the left in a farther room, Joseph. This scene is enlivened by numbers of tiny angels, equally unconventional, one of whom stands holding a fly-brush over the Child, others are sweeping the floor, and others overhead swinging censers and holding a large crown over the Virgin.

The wings, each half a square, contain half-length figures of St. Anthony (left) and St. Sebastian, as though typical of age and youth. The former fronts us, his head slightly turned to look down at the Child, his hands crossed over the top of an open book on the ledge in front of him, while overhead small angels are driving demons away. The latter, nude, stands half left, his hands joined as he gazes at the Child. On the ledge is a glass with a wild-flower in it. Overhead are small angels. Painted for the Elector Frederick of Saxony before 1500.

THE CRUCIFIXION The smallest, but not the least impressive, rendering of the subject by the great masters. The figure extends almost to the edges of the canvas, so that we see only a small portion of distant landscape beneath, over which the day is breaking, the rest of the background being darkened, which renders still more effective the long fluttering ends of the white loin cloth on either side of the figure. The eyes are upturned, the lips slightly parted, as though uttering the words written at the foot: ” Pater, in manus tuas commendo spiritum meum.”

BERNARD VAN ORLEY Bust to left, on a red ground, in a black hat and cloak. In the left hand is a letter. A young man with short fair hair. Painted in 1521, when Durer was in Paris.


THE MADONNA WITH THE CANARY Half length, seated full face, with the Child sitting, also full face, on a cushion in her lap. Her right hand rests on the top of a large book, her left meets that of the infant St. John, who reaches up from the right foreground with a bunch of lilies of the valley. Two cherubim hold a crown of flowers over the Virgin’s head. Her hair falls over her right shoulder; she looks beyond us to the left. The Child sits with His feet apart, and both arms raised with bent elbows, and on the left arm is perched a canary. He looks down at 5t. John, behind whom is seen head and shoulders of a little angel holding his crossed staff. At the back of the Virgin is a plain cloth of honour, on the left of which is a background of ruins and trees, and on the right of landscape with a large tree. In the left foreground is a wooden table, on which is a paper inscribed “Alberg Darer Germanicus faciebat post Virginis partum, 1506,” and his monogram.


THE FEAST OF ROSE GARLANDS An old copy of the much damaged original at Strahow, near Prague, painted in 1506, for the German merchants at Venice. The Virgin, in a long full mantle, is enthroned out of doors, a cloth of honour being suspended behind her by a pair of Cherubims. An angel sits at her feet playing a lute, and on either side are kneeling Pope Julius II. (left) and the Emperor Maximilian; and behind them again several other men kneeling, those on the left being crowned by St. Dominic, who stands on the Virgin’s right, and those on the right by cherubim. The Virgin places a rose-crown on the head of Maximilian with her left hand, while her right supports the Child, who with both hands holds out a rose-crown for the Pope. On the extreme right, leaning against a tree trunk, are seen (at half length) Darer holding a paper scroll, and his friend Willibald Pirkheimer, the humanist. Behind them is a distant landscape with mountains, while on the other side of the throne the background is of trees.

THE ADORATION OF THE TRINITY In the centre of the upper part of the picture is God the Father, His mantle extended on either side by hosts of angels, holding the Cross bearing the Saviour between His knees, while above His head is the mystical Dove. Below the angels on either side are the elect of the Old Testament and the Saints of Christendom, the females on the left headed by the Virgin, the males on the right by St. John the Baptist. Below these are ranged all across the picture the nameless Saints of all ranks, from Emperor and Pope to peasant and beggar woman. Below these again is still room for a glimpse downwards at earth, a simple though beautiful landscape, in the right-hand corner of which we see a small figure of Darer standing by a tablet bearing his name and the date. Painted in 1511 for Matthias Landauer at Nuremberg.

THE MASSACRE OF TEN THOUSAND MARTYRS Persian Christians put to death by King Sapor. The slope of a hill rising to a background of precipitous rocks crowned by trees is filled by groups of figures, in the very centre of which, conspicuous by their black European dress, stand Darer and Pirlcheimer fronting us, the former carrying a small flag with his signature and the date. In the centre foreground, below them, one man is being beheaded and another speared, while on the right are two Persians with large turbans directing the operations, and a third on a horse. In the middle ground to the right the Christians are being driven up a defile in the rock, emerging at the top in the background to be hurled down like a waterfall.

Painted in 1508 for the Elector Frederick the Wise of Saxony.