Albrecht Durer was a German artist and printmaker who was one of the most important figures of the German Renaissance. He achieved fame during the 14th and 15th centuries by spreading his painting through printmaking and commissioned works in private collections.
As a painter, Albrecht Durer worked with several people, including Emperor Maximilian I, who commissioned the famous Albrecht Durer drawing: Portrait of Emperor Maximilian. In this article, we'll go over Durer's earlier years and his time with Maximilian.
Brief Bio on Albrecht Durer, the Artist
Artist Albrecht Durer was born in Nuremberg on May 21, 1471. His parents, Albrecht Dürer (the Elder) and Barbara Holper were married in 1467 and had eighteen children together. Albrecht was number three and also the second son.
Painter Albrecht Durer started learning goldsmithing and drawing from his father. He did well as a goldsmith but showed fantastic talent as a painter. His father even let him become an apprentice to Michael Wolgemut when he turned fifteen in 1486.
After a successful conclusion of his apprenticeship, Durer went on Wanderjahre, a German custom of taking gap years to travel after learning a craft. First, he headed to Colmar, but his proposed host and tutor, Martin Schongauer, died before his arrival.
It was Martin's brothers and the painter Ludwig who welcomed him instead. Albrecht travelled for a bit and ended up in Strasbourg, where he painted his first self-portrait in1493. It's said that the portrait was for his fiancee, Agnes Frey, back in Nuremberg.
At 23, he married Agnes in absentia, certifying an arranged union, albeit not one of love and passion. In some letters, Durer made it clear that he didn't fancy his wife much, calling her names and vulgar remarks.
One of the interesting facts about Albrecht Durer is that his loveless marriage to Agnes produced no children, forever ending his bloodline. So it was no shocker that Albrecht made his first trip to Italy not long after he was married. There, he learned skills in German-styled drypoints and designed woodcuts.
Upon his return to Nuremberg in 1495, he opened his art workshop, affording him the time and space to explore his art while incorporating Italian influences. From here on, he studied religious and circular themes with paintings such as The Men's Bath House (ca. 1496), Adam and Eve (1504), Nemesis (1502), etc.
As he explored various mediums from 1507, especially as a woodcutter and painter, Albrecht Durer's life story began to take shape. His reputation spread throughout Europe and landed him within the sights of Maximilian The First.
Albrecht Durer and the Emperor's Relationship
The Portrait of the Emperor is a product of Albrecht Durer and Maximilian's meeting in 1512. Six years later, in 1518, the Emperor called the artist to his castle to portray him in a painting. Durer met the royal dignitary in his palace and made a sketch he'll use to model the final piece.
Albrecht Durer completed the oil panel painting in 1519 with exciting variations to the initial sketch. Unfortunately, Emperor Maximilian died before the completed project and couldn't see the beautiful portrait of himself before passing away.
Although the artist wasn't a nobleman, Durer and Maximilian maintained a close artist-client friendship. The Emperor treated Durer respectfully though he sometimes didn't have the resources to pay the artist for his work.
There was a rumoured incident that occurred between the duo and another nobleman. It was said that Maximilian noticed that Durer's ladder was too short and unstable, making it unsuitable for Durer to work on.
Maximilian tasked a nobleman to hold the ladder in place for the German, but he refused, stating that he could not serve a man below him. The ruler showed his support for Durer by holding the ladder himself and opined that you could make a nobleman out of a peasant, but you can't make an artist like Albrecht Durer out of a noble.
About the Maximilian I: Portrait of the Emperor
When you first gaze upon the 74cm by 62cm oil painting on Lindenwood, you perceive that you're looking at a regal personality. It depicts the Emperor sitting against a green background, wearing a gown with a brown fur collar and a wide-brimmed hat while holding his personal symbol, a pomegranate.
Apart from the pomegranate, several other elements make this painting memorable. One is the eye-catching combination of the dark green background and the brown shade of Maximilian's life-like robe.
Another element that'll catch your attention is the Habsburg coat of arms and Golden Fleece chain on the top left corner. There's also an inscription of the Emperor's titles and deeds in capital letters on the top right.
While the subject didn't get to see the painting, you can't write a description of Albrecht Durer's drawings and style without mentioning the Maximilian portrait. It was Durer's goodbye to the ruler, which currently hangs at the Kunsthistorisches Museum in Vienna, Austria.
Other Albrecht Durer Drawings Commissioned by Maximilian
Portrait of the Emperor wasn't the only artwork that Durer made for Maximilian. From 1512, Maximilian began commissioning Durer to create art, starting with The Triumphal Arch. It was a woodcut print depicted on 36 large sheets measuring 295 x 357 cm in its entirety.
The Triumphal Arch was followed by The Triumphal Procession or the Procession of Maximilian, a collaborative woodcut print by several commissioned artists, including Durer. There were other artists namely Marx Treitz-Saurwein, Albrecht Altdorfer, and Hans Springinklee.
Another known Durer commission for the Emperor is his work on the ruler's prayer book. Maximilian had a prayer book containing not only prayers but different artworks by Durer. However, for reasons unknown to the public, Durer stopped working on the book, which was continued by Lucas Cranach the Elder and Hans Baldung.
Without knowing all about Albrecht Durer as an artist, you'll be inspired by how he maintained considerable skills. And even though the Portrait of the Emperor will remain unseen by the owner, the art world can certainly see Durer's talent and love in this final goodbye to the Emperor.