Saturday, September 17, 2011

Albrecht Dürer: Early Years (1484-1494)

I was attempting to update my original Albrecht Dürer post to include more images of his artwork and more information on the timeline of his remarkable history only to have Blogger and the internet chew it up and throw it away.  Therefore, I'm going to attempt this feat again, but I'm going to break the information up a bit more.  It will take time to get this organized, so please be patient.  The titles for these posts will likely change and fluctuate as I determine how best to break up this pictorial timeline.

Albrecht Dürer (21 May 1471, Nuremberg – 6 April 1528, Nuremberg) was an influential artist, engraver and painter of the 15th and 16th centuries, though perhaps more prominently in the 16th century. 

Self Portrait at 13 (1484)

The Lady with the Falcon (Uncertain Date)

At the age of 15-1/2 (abt Nov, 1486), Dürer was apprenticed to Michael Wolgemut, where he stayed for nearly 4 years.

Saint John's Church (1489)

The Wire-Drawing Mill (1489)

Alliance Coat of Arms of the Dürer and Holper Families (1490)

Portrait of Dürer's Father, Albrecht (1490)

Dürer's father, Albrecht, was a goldsmith by trade and was born in Hungary.

At this point in time, Dürer had finished his apprenticeship with Michael Wolgemut and had begun, what the Germans referred to as, wanderjaher (a time of artistic study with artists in other areas).  His exact destinations thoughout this four year span of his life are mostly up for speculation.  Obviously he began by going home and painting portraits of his parents...

Portrait of Dürer's Mother, Barbara (1490)

...and practicing his craft in the mirror.  There are many who claim this next drawing is Albrecht Dürer in a bandage and they could very well be correct, but if viewed next to Study in Self Portrait, Hand and Pillow (1493), the bandage looks like an unfinished version of the cap he is wearing in that drawing.  Which, incidentally, (I'm really not trying to run this train off the rails) his cap, according to an inventory of Charles I in 1639, is an "old Hungarian fashion black cap" as his father wore in another portrait Dürer painted in 1497.  Since his father was from Hungary, this would make perfect sense.

Self Portrait at 19-20 (1491-92)

It is rumored that he went to Colmar sometime in 1492 to possibly study under Martin Schongauer, but unfortunately, Schongauer had passed away the previous year (Feb 1491).  Instead he is said to have connected with Schonhgauer's brothers.  There is also an indication that he went to Basel in 1492 to visit another of Schongauer's brothers and where he created the frontispiece in Nicholaus Kessler's 'Epistolare beati Hieronymi' (The Letters of St Jerome), 8 August, 1492[1].  It has been indicated that this was the second edition of this book published, which would indicate why it has not been widely recognized.

Frontispiece for Epistolare beati Hieronymi - St Jerome (1492)

Studies in Self-Portrait, Hand and Pillow age 22 (1493)

In 1493 Dürer went to Strasbourg, where he would have experienced the sculpture of Nikolaus Gerhaert. Dürer's first painted self-portrait (now in the Louvre) was painted at this time, probably to be sent back to his fiancée in Nuremberg. [Wikipedia]

Self-Portrait at 22 (1493)

Christ as the Man of Sorrows (1493)

Female Nude (1493)

In support of another trip to Basel (his first being in 1492), there is a series of woodcuts he was commissioned to do there, supposedly his first commissioned work, in 1494 for Das Narrenschiff, or The Ship of Fools by Sebastian Brant.  I currently have found 78 of the woodcuts he drew for this series, but I'm afraid that would be more than this post would allow. :D

Ship of Fools, Title Page (1494)

Death of Orpheus (1494)

Young Woman Attacked by Death or The Ravisher (1494)

On 7 July, 1494, at the age of 23, Dürer was married to Agnes Frey. From what I can tell, this is the first drawing where he used the signature monogram that we associate with Dürer, though it could have been added belatedly as it appears as if he wrote on many of his older drawings explaining what they were.  There are other drawings after this point that were still using an earlier initial convention.

Portrait of Dürer's wife, Agnes (1494) At Bottom: "Mein Agnes")

Around October, 1494, Dürer left Nuremberg on his first trip to Venice.  Apparently his trip only lasted a short while, because he returned to Nuremberg sometime in 1495. To substantiate that he made a trip to Venice in 1494-95 are the following:

Courtyard of the Former Castle with Clouds in Innsbruck, Tyrol, Austria (1494)

Courtyard of the Former Castle without Clouds in Innsbruck, Tyrol, Austria (1494)
...but whether these were painted on his trip to Venice or on his trip back is hard to determine.  Next we have a portrait of Queen Catarina, who, according to Wikipedia:
The last Crusader state became a colony of Venice, and as compensation, Catherine was allowed to retain the title of Queen and was made the Sovereign Lady of Asolo, a county in the Veneto of Italy, in 1489. Asolo soon gained a reputation as a court of literary and artistic distinction, mainly as a result of it being the fictitious setting for Pietro Bembo's platonic dialogues on love, Gli Asolani. Catherine died in Venice in 1510.
 
Queen Caterina Cornaro (1494)


1. The Complete Works of Albrecht Dürer, edited by Dr. Willi Kurth, Dover Publications, New York, 1963, Pg 10.

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