Durer and the Reformation Essay

Durer and the Reformation Essay

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Albrecht Dürer died in 1528 as a consequence of a fever contracted on one of his numerous journeys in Europe, undertaken in pursuit of knowledge, patronage, the elusive rules of proportion and the development of his skill as an artist. (On this particular occasion his curiosity to see a whale had led him to take a boat out in bad weather while in the Netherlands, with the result that he became ill and never quite recovered)

In 1526 he had undertaken his last great work, which has become known as The Four Apostles. The diptych was possibly originally intended for the wings of an altar-piece and which had occupied him for some years, was not however ordered by a patron, but executed under Dürer’s own initiative and presented to the Council of Nuremberg, his home town, as a ‘reminiscence’ (Russell p14) It should not, however be interpreted as some kind of personal egotistical keepsake. At the foot of the work Dürer had caused a professional calligrapher to place a very significant inscription which included Biblical text and the following ‘general admonition to the beholder’:
“All worldly rulers in these dangerous times should pay heed lest they follow human misguidance instead of the word of God. For God will have nothing added to his word nor taken away from it. Hear, therefore, the warnings of these four excellent men, Peter, Paul, John and Mark.” (Ettlinger p6)
All this was written not in the Latin of Rome, but in the powerful German of Luther’s ‘Septemberbibel’ (Panofsky p232).

Inasmuch as the Reformation was a natural outgrowth of the Renaissance, Albrecht Dürer was very much a child of his time. He was born in 1471 in Nuremberg, the third son of Albrecht Dürer the Elder and Barbara Holper. After learning to read a...


... middle of paper ...


...spirations of his time (p163). But the following simple phrase from Dürer’s notes for a work of instruction for young artists, indicate the philosophy of a man who was an artist of the Renaissance and the Reformation: (Moore p 307) “He that worketh in ignorance worketh more painfully than he that worketh with understanding; therefore let all learn to understand aright”


Works Cited
Encyclopaedia Britannica CD Rom 2001
Ettlinger L D Albrecht Dürer Knowledge publications, Purnell, 1966
Kurth, Willi The complete woodcuts of Albrecht Dürer Crown Publishers, New York, 1946
Moore, T Sturge Albert Durer Duckworth and Co, London 1905
Panofsky Erwin Albrecht Dürer vol 1 OUP 1943
Raynes John Human anatomy for the artist Crescent 1979
Russell, Francis The world of Dürer Time-Life International (Nederland) 1972
Streider Peter Dürer, the complete paintings Granada 1980

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