- Albrecht Dürer: Künstler, Werk und Zeit, and: Das Dürer-Haus: Neue Ergebnisse der Forschung
Matthias Mende's Dürer-Bibliographie, published in 1971 in conjunction with the 500th anniversary of the Nuremberg artist's birth, lists 10,271 entries. Since then the flow of new texts about Dürer continues unabated. This testifies to our sustained fascination with Dürer's art and person. There were major exhibitions of his work in Rome and Madrid in 2007 as well as a host of lesser shows in Europe and North America. Rainer Schoch, Matthias Mende, and Anna Scherbaum edited the massive and presently definitive, three-volume catalogue of his prints (2001–04). Even Erwin Panofsky's classic 1943 monograph was reissued in 2005. On the horizon is an exhibition on the young Dürer up to 1500 currently being prepared by the Germanisches Nationalmuseum in Nuremberg for 2011– 12. Like Shakespeare's writings, Dürer's art still provides aesthetic pleasure and ample intellectual challenges. New discoveries demand the rethinking of long-held assumptions. Even discounting the inevitable repetition endemic to Dürer scholarship, new publications keep the discourse vital. The two excellent books under review address different audiences, one popular and one highly specialized.
Anja Grebe has crafted a succinct, reliable, and very readable monograph. Amid the wealth of Dürer literature found in German bookstores and museum shops, there really is not a decent up-to-date overview of his art and career. Now there is. Grebe presents a very balanced discussion of Dürer's life, major works, and his reputation across the centuries. She credits his success to his geniality, good fortune, and astute business sense. Skill helps too. The book's short length precludes extensive examination of individual objects though there are a few separate text boxes in which a handful of works are discussed at greater length. Grebe references many paintings, drawings, and prints, most of which are not included among the book's forty illustrations. This poses problems for some general readers unfamiliar with the specific works. Grebe's insights and questions are sprinkled throughout the book. For instance, she reminds us that the tale about Dürer being born in the rear house of a property owned by Willibald Pirckheimer's father dates only to the eighteenth century. Grebe dismisses the traditional attribution of certain works to Michael Wolgemut, Dürer's teacher. She notes the shakiness of our knowledge of Dürer's wanderjahre, especially his achievements while in Basel, and the uncertainties associated with the dating of Dürer's first trip to Italy. She mentions that a payment document long thought to refer to the artist's Charlemagne and Sigismund panels refers instead to repolychroming two statues on the Schöner Brunnen in Nuremberg's main market. Grebe's monograph succeeds nicely as a primer, a solid foundation for anyone interested in learning about the great Nuremberg master. [End Page 966]
Ulrich Grossmann, Director of the Germanisches Nationalmuseum, and his colleagues have initiated a new series entitled Dürer Forschungen. The first volume focuses largely, but not exclusively, on the artist's house and its use. In 1509, Dürer purchased a large corner house near the Tiergärtnertor, one of Nuremberg's main gates. Over the centuries the house became a tourist site and locus for Dürer's veneration especially after the city purchased it in 1825, renovated it in a Gothic-revival style in 1826, and rented it to a local art society (later known as the Albrecht-Dürer-Verein). In 1871, the house, refurbished again and taken over by a new foundation, opened as Europe's first (?) public museum dedicated to a single artist.
Recent structural repairs to the house and a rethinking of its interior displays, coupled...