#FineArtFriday: Self-portrait by Albrecht Dürer 1500

About this painting, via Wikipedia:

Dürer chooses to present himself monumentally, in a style that unmistakably recalls depictions of Christ—the implications of which have been debated among art critics. A conservative interpretation suggests that he is responding to the tradition of the Imitation of Christ. A more controversial view reads the painting is a proclamation of the artist’s supreme role as creator.

The inscription reads, I, Albrecht Dürer of Nuremberg portrayed myself in appropriate [or everlasting] colors aged twenty-eight years.

What I like about this painting:

I like how dark and precise this portrait is compared to his earlier self-portraits. Dürer’s eyes are compelling. They tell us he is a complicated man with many secrets. The year 1500 was significant to him, as it was the turn of the millennium and his studio was enjoying great success as a print maker. Dürer traveled often and had spent a great deal of time in Italy where he made the acquaintance of Leonardo da Vinci. It is clear he was highly influenced by da Vinci’s work, as were most artists of the day.

I’m intrigued by the way he has chosen to depict himself in a pose that was traditionally that of Christ as Savior Mundi (Savior of the World). His hair, in this painting, is portrayed as dark brown but was actually a lighter red. He shows it as parted down the middle, very like da Vinci’s Salvator Mundi.

He raises his hand toward his heart, as if blessing us, the viewers. The position of the fingers is symbolic; some would say it is a Templar/Masonic gesture for the letter M, signifying Mary. If you try to hold your hand that position, you discover it is impossible to do so in a relaxed, natural way. The fingers must be purposefully held that way and it isn’t really comfortable.  Others would say hands are difficult to paint, and were frequently copied from famous paintings; still other will say certain gestures showed social status. It was the Renaissance and art was a way to express one’s rebellion through symbolism and allegory. Therefore, we know the gesture has meaning.

His signature is also clever: 1500 Anno Domini or 1500 Albrecht Dürer.

About the Artist, via Wikipedia:

Albrecht Dürer (21 May 1471 – 6 April 1528) sometimes spelt in English as Durer or Duerer, without umlaut, was a painter, printmaker, and theorist of the German Renaissance. Born in Nuremberg, Dürer established his reputation and influence across Europe when he was still in his twenties due to his high-quality woodcut prints. He was in communication with the major Italian artists of his time, including Raphael, Giovanni Bellini and Leonardo da Vinci, and from 1512 he was patronized by Emperor Maximilian I. Dürer is commemorated by both the Lutheran and Episcopal Churches.

Dürer’s vast body of work includes engravings, his preferred technique in his later prints, altarpieces, portraits and self-portraits, watercolors and books. The woodcuts, such as the Apocalypse series (1498), are more Gothic than the rest of his work. His well-known engravings include the Knight, Death and the Devil (1513), Saint Jerome in his Study (1514) and Melencolia I (1514), which has been the subject of extensive analysis and interpretation. His watercolors also mark him as one of the first European landscape artists, while his ambitious woodcuts revolutionized the potential of that medium.

Dürer’s introduction of classical motifs into Northern art, through his knowledge of Italian artists and German humanists, has secured his reputation as one of the most important figures of the Northern Renaissance. This is reinforced by his theoretical treatises, which involve principles of mathematics, perspective, and ideal proportions.

  • Title:  Albrecht Dürer: Self-Portrait
  • Artist: Albrecht Dürer  (1471–1528)
  • Genre: self-portrait
  • Date: 1500
  • Medium: oil on lime
  • Dimensions: Height: 67.1 cm (26.4 ″); Width: 48.9 cm (19.2 ″)
  • Collection:  Alte Pinakothek
  • Current location: 1st floor room IX Alte Pinakothek, Raum IX

Credits and Attributions:

Self-portrait, 1500 by Albrecht Dürer [Public domain] Wikimedia Commons contributors, “File:Albrecht Dürer – 1500 self-portrait (High resolution and detail).jpg,” Wikimedia Commons, the free media repository, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?title=File:Albrecht_D%C3%BCrer_-_1500_self-portrait_(High_resolution_and_detail).jpg&oldid=292769964 (accessed May 2, 2019).

Wikipedia contributors, “Albrecht Dürer,” Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia, https://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?title=Albrecht_D%C3%BCrer&oldid=894882291 (accessed May 3, 2019).



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2 responses to “#FineArtFriday: Self-portrait by Albrecht Dürer 1500

  1. Also known as, “Durer’s Yet Another Perfect Selfie”. 😀 Kidding aside, I love his portraits too. But not as much as his grass!

    Liked by 1 person

    • I was just thinking about that “selfie” kind of thing that the artists of that 100-200 year span did. Artists such as Vermeer, Rembrandt – and so many, many other famous artists had a habit of inserting themselves into Biblical scenes, or making “this is me with my hair different and wearing ermine” portraits. Self-promotion is timeless!

      Dürer didn’t know it, but his watercolors of grass, thistles, and the young hare began an artistic movement legitimizing watercolors of simple nature scenes.

      Liked by 1 person