Albrecht Dürer (1471 – 1528)

Albrecht Dürer  (1471–1528), “Saint Jerome” (1521), Oil on Panel, 60x48cm, Museu Nacional de Arte Antiga, Lissabon.

On the 21st of May, 1471, birth of Albrecht Dürer, painter, drawer and printmaker, and one of the key artists of the Northern Renaissance.  Dürer’s printmaking has been of immense influence on generations of painters, all of whom had printmakers copy their works in prints, to be able to distribute their art. Dürer was born in Nuremberg, Germany, where his father was a successful goldsmith. He made a few trips to Italy and contributed greatly to the exchange of knowledge and skills between the Italian and Northern Renaissance. Back in Germany Dürer dedicated himself to printmaking, mainly woodcuts and engravings, turning printmaking into an art of its own right. Dürer is considered one of the most famous artists of his time.

Here is Dürer’s painting of Saint Jerome. It’s more a portrait of an old wise man and only little details like the inkpot and bookrest remind us that this is a scholar sitting in his study. Saint Jerome was a Christian theologian, best known for his translation of the Bible into Latin. But look how he is pointing at the skull. Saint Jerome reminds us of our mortality and the vanity of earthly life and goods.

The Albertina in Vienna keeps four of Dürer’s preparatory sketches for the painting; see hereunder. Dürer’s handwritten note on the drawing of the Saint Jerome’s head, gives us information about the model: “The man was 93 years old and still healthy”. The three other sketches are details of the painting, all brush drawings on gray violet primed paper highlighted in white tempera, and from 1521, Fotos: © Albertina, Vienna.

Albrecht Dürer  (1471–1528), “Study of a Man Aged 93” (1521), 42x28cm, Albertina, Vienna.