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The Essential Durer

Edited by Larry Silver and Jeffrey Chipps Smith

Publication Year: 2011

Albrecht Dürer (1471-1528), perhaps the most famous of all German artists, embodies the modern ideal of the Renaissance man—he was a remarkable painter, printmaker, draftsman, designer, theoretician, and even a poet. More is known about his thoughts and his life than about any other Northern European master of his time, since he wrote extensively about himself, his family's history, his travels, and his friends. His woodcuts and engravings were avidly collected and copied across Europe, and they quickly established his reputation as a master. Praised in life and elegized in death by such thinkers as Martin Luther and Erasmus, he served Emperor Maximilian and other leading church and secular princes in the Holy Roman Empire.

Although there is a vast specialized literature on the Nuremberg master, The Essential Dürer fills the need for a foundational book that covers the major aspects of his career. The essays included in this book, written by leading scholars from the United States and Germany, provide an accessible, up-to-date examination of Dürer's art and person as well as his posthumous fame. The essays address an array of topics, from separate and detailed studies of his paintings, drawings, printmaking, and sculpture, to broader concerns such as his visits to and interactions with Venice and the Netherlands, his personal relationships, and his relationships with other artists. Collectively these stimulating essays explore the brilliance of Dürer's creativity and the impact he had on his world, exposing him as an artist fully engaged with the tumultuous intellectual and religious challenges of his time.

Published by: University of Pennsylvania Press

Title Page

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Copyright Page

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Table of Contents

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pp. v-vi

List of Illustrations

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pp. vii-x

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pp. xi-xii

The title of this volume clearly states its purpose. The Essential Durer should provide newcomers to the artist as well as experienced viewers of his work an overview of the most important features of his oeuvre. Consequently, the organization of the essays begins with the major media and...

List of Abbreviations

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pp. xiii

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1. Dürer—Man, Media, and Myths

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pp. 1-11

Few artists have ever been so fully exploited—and in so many different ways—by later admirers as Albrecht Durer (1471–1528). Like a Rorschach inkblot, the imagery of this Nuremberg artist has been co-opted: to justify ‘‘Germanness’’ itself in both art and politics (including Nazi politics in...

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2. Dürer’s Drawings

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pp. 12-34

In any assessment of Durer’s art, the role played by drawing can scarcely be overestimated.1 It was his most basic, most constant, and most important form of expression, the graphic barometer of his life and artistic development. Throughout his life he drew continually and daily, unlike his work in other...

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3. Dürer and the High Art of Printmaking

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pp. 35-61

When Durer was still in his twenties, his contemporaries began to compare him with the great artists of antiquity.1 We no longer take his measure in this way, but the analogy drawn by Erasmus of Rotterdam still serves as a touchstone in modern commentaries on his prints.2 Durer trumped Apelles,...

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4. Dürer as Painter

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pp. 62-73

Albrecht Durer was celebrated during his lifetime for his skill as both a painter and a draftsman. Subsequently, his paintings have received significantly less critical attention than his graphic works, his theoretical writings, or his biography—with the artist cast as an exemplar of artistic genius living...

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5. Dürer and Sculpture

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pp. 74-98

In 1499 or 1500, Conrad Celtis, imperial poet laureate, favorably compared Albrecht Durer with antiquity’s most renowned artists.1 From a humanist, there could be no higher form of praise. During and after his life, Durer was often dubbed the German Apelles or, in Erasmus’s words, the Apelles of...

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6. Dürer and Venice

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pp. 99-114

Durer’s ‘‘Italian journeys’’ have consistently held an important place in the scholarship surrounding the artist’s art and life. His first visit, usually dated 1494–95, came at a formative time in the artist’s career, between the end of his Wanderjahre (1490–94) and his first great creative period as an...

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7. The Artist, His Horse, a Print, and Its Audience: Producing and Viewing the Ideal in Dürer’s Knight, Death, and the Devil (1513)

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pp. 115-129

Within the oeuvre of Albrecht Durer, several works stand out as especially evocative. Laden with visual cues that seem redolent with significance, the images appear almost to hail the viewer and to demand attention and interpretation. Many scholars have hearkened to their call. Durer’s...

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8. Civic Courtship: Albrecht Dürer, the Saxon Duke, and the Emperor

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pp. 130-148

If we follow Martin Warnke and take Italian Renaissance painters, especially Andrea Mantegna with the Gonzagas at Mantua, as the defining paradigm of the court artist, the very opposite of the civic guild artist, then the career of Albrecht Durer in his native city of Nuremberg (like Van Eyck...

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9. Dürer and the Netherlands: Patterns of Exchange and Mutual Admiration

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pp. 149-165

When Albrecht Durer decided to travel to the Habsburg Netherlands in the autumn of 1520, the painter-engraver from Nuremberg was no longer a young man seeking further training or visual inspiration. By then he had almost reached the age of fifty and was a mature artist of international standing...

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10. Agony in the Garden: Dürer’s "Crisis of the Image"

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pp. 166-184

These words, uttered by the character Anthony in Thomas More’s A Dialogue of Comfort against Tribulation (1534), were written while More himself was going though a crisis.1 Caught in a struggle between his sovereign, King Henry VIII, and the pope, the head of the Roman Church, of which...

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11. Albrecht Dürer between Agnes Frey and Willibald Pirckheimer

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pp. 185-205

Two sources leave telling traces of tensions in Albrecht Durer’s closest personal relationships. One, a letter that Durer wrote to Willibald Pirckheimer, preserves for us a shocking and intimate exchange between the two men. Durer sent the missive from Venice in 1506 and dated it ‘‘about fourteen...

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12. Impossible Distance: Past and Present in the Study of Dürer and Grünewald

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pp. 206-226

By way of a case study of the changing historiographic fortunes of Albrecht Durer and Matthias Grunewald (ca. 1475/80–1528), this essay reflects on an important assumption underlying the disciplinary activities of art history— the idea of historical distance.1 The rich literature on this subject in the philosophy...


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pp. 227-275

Short Bibliography

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pp. 277-279

List of Contributors

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pp. 281-282


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pp. 283-294

E-ISBN-13: 9780812206012
Print-ISBN-13: 9780812221787

Page Count: 312
Publication Year: 2011