Artist and Humanist, Albrecht Durer is one of the most significant figures in the history f European art outside Italy during the Renaissance (Gowing 195). Portraying the questioning spirit of the Renaissance, Durer's conviction that he must examine and explore his own situation through capturing the very essence of his role as artist and creator, is reflected in the Self-portrait in a Fur Collared Robe (Strieder 10).
With the portrait, Durer's highly self-conscious approach to his status as an artist coveys his exalted mission of art more clearly than in any other painting. He seems to be "less concerned with himself as a person than with himself as an artist, and less with the artist than with the origin and exalted mission of art itself." (Strieder 13).
In this self-portrait Durer portrays himself in the guise of the Savior. Durer's natural resemblance to Christ has been reverently amplified (Hutchinson 67). His bearded face is grave, and fringed by lustrous shoulder-lenth hair painted in a dark, Christ-like brown (Russell 89. Scholars have called attention to the fact that, the portrait was intended to portray Durer as the "thinking" artist through emphasis on the enlarged eyes and the right hand. Duere's use of the full-face view and almost hypnotic gaze "emphasizes his belief that the sense of sight is the most noble of the five senses." He wrote in the Introduction to his Painter's Manual, "For the noblest of man's senses is sight… Therefore a thing seen is more believable and long-lasting to us than something we hear" (Hutchison 68).
The position of the right hand held in front of his chest is almost as if in blessing (89 Russell). Joachim Camerarius, a professor who published a Latin translation of two of Durer's books, wrote of Durer's "intelligent head, his flashing eyes, his nobly formed nose, his broad chest," and then noted: "But his fingers- you would vow you had never seen anything more elegant" (Russell 8). Along with his qualities of mind and eye, the gracefully extended fingers in his self-portrait portrays his extraordinary "faculty of hand." Camerarius continued:
"What shall I say of the steadiness and exactitude of his hand? You might swear that rule, square, or compasses had been employed to draw lines which he, in face, drew with the brush, or very often with pencil or pen… this ...
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...ything connected with his art- "how to collect knowledge and pass it on to others" (Streider 12). To further fulfill his spiritual role, Durer pledged to write one last instructional book entitled Food for Young Painters in which he would hand down all his knowledge and experience as his legacy to those "able young men who love art more than silver and gold" (Russell 161). His advice for the young painter was "that he be kept from women… and that he guard himself from all impurity, (for) nothing weakens the understanding more than impurity." He should be taught "how to read and write well," he should be taught to pray to God for "The grace of quick perception" (Hutchinson 111). But the book was never completed before he died suddenly on the sixth of April, 1528 (Hutchison 110).
Gowing, L. (1983). The Encyclopedia of Visual Art. (Vol. 10.) London: Encyclopedia Britannica International.
Hutchison, J.C. (1990).Albrecht Durer: A Biography. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press.
Russell, F. (1967). The World of Durer: 1471-1528. New York: Time Inc.
Strieder, P. (1984). The Hidden Masters: Durer. Danbury, Connecticut: Masterworks Press.
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