Albrecht Durer, Self-Portrait, 1500- Journal Essays Example

Type of paper: Essay

Topic: Art, Portrait, Self-Portrait, Picture, Artists, Adam And Eve, Human, Education

Pages: 3

Words: 825

Published: 2020/10/07

Picture 1. Self-portrait. Albrecht Durer, 1500
In the year 1500, I completed a self-portrait (picture 1) using oil on canvas. I was 28 years old, still in my prime, both physically and artistically. It is this prime that I wanted to convey in this work, the image of a man of his time, and also the image of an artist as part of the higher classes of society. I wanted this image of myself to remain a testament of my likeness and my statues and have for this reason included the following inscription in the painting: ‘I, Albrecht Durer of Nuremberg painted myself thus, with undying color, at the age of twenty-eight years’ (Nash, 2008, p. 152). I have placed the inscription right next to me, at eye level so there is no doubt about who the portrait depicts (Nash, 2008, p. 152).
As with all my works, the choices in composition and technique were very important and I spent a significant amount of time in planning every single detail. I always aim at creating compositions that are so close to nature that the differences between them are often difficult to discern. In this painting I also did the same and the success was such that my dog believed it was actually me and started licking the painting (Nash, 2008, p. 153). This was achieved through great consideration into forms and representation of textures. I have added specific detail in my coat to denote its fur lining and other materials; but also in my hair and face in order to portray more naturally my characteristics, curls, beard and flesh. In this respect, my self-portrait is very much a product of the Northern ideas that have been dominant in this part of the world for more than a century (Stokstad and Colthren, 2009, p. 677). Other parts of the composition however, have been the direct influence of the work I have witnessed in my year-long travels in Italy from which I returned five years ago (Stokstand and Colthren, 2009, p. 677). The triangular composition in particular and the attention I paid in depicting symmetry and balance that are so valued by my Italian colleagues (Stokstand and Colthren, 2009, p. 677). I chose a rigid frontal posture for my self-portrait which closely reminds the viewer of the representations of Christ as a savior, for reasons I will explain later. The brighter colors used to depict the human flesh, the hair and the clothes come into sharp contrast with the dark background from which the figure seems to emerge. This was done intentionally in order to enhance the effect the picture has on the viewer and turn his attention on the human figure in front of him.
This is the third self-portrait I created in the course of seven years. The first was made in 1493 and the second in 1498. In all of them I presented myself in a noble way as a man of standing and intellect (Woods, 1999, p. 105-106). However, in this work I take this a step further. As an artist I am not simply a craftsman as many of my colleagues have been treated in the recent past. I am a ‘noble intellectual’, who can recreate nature, be part of philosophical conversations, like those conducted by the Italian humanists, and even write and publish their own treatises on the nature of the work (Stokstad and Colthren, 2009, p. 677). In this respect, the artist is a creator. I as an artist am a creator. It is in this context that I chose to represent myself in the image of Christ as savior of the world. This choice should be viewed as blasphemous, as it is God who gave me the power and ability to create (Woods, 1999, p. 106). It is God who gave me independence as an artist and as a man and allowed me to create art that sets the standards for future generations (Berger, 2004, p. 9, 12).
Comparing this self-portrait to the one I painted just two years earlier (picture 2), it is easy to understand the difference in the subject matter. Although they both essentially belong to the same genre, the latter depicts me as a noble man, dressed in noble clothes and sitting in front of a window, much like the portraits I –and other artists- paint for the upper classes (Woods, 1999, p. 106). The meaning of my most recent self-portrait is certainly more important, as it presents to the world my identity as a member of the society and as an artist/ creator.
Picture 2. Salvator Mundi. Albrecht Durer, 1500’s Picture 3. Adam and Eve. Albrecht Durer, 1504
Salvator Mundi (picture 3), which I created in the early 1500’s, is a devotional image of Christ as savior, a traditional image, on which my self-portrait of 1500 was based. The subject is clearly religious as the Lord raises His right hand in blessing, while He holds an orb (Albrecht Durer: Salvator Mundi, 2006).
The human figure is at the center of my engraving Adam and Eve (picture 3) from 1504. But unlike my self-portrait, this is a study of the human anatomy, a study of the perfect human proportions, like these that are being conducted in Italy at the moment (Albrecht Durer: Adam and Eve, 2006). The figures are influenced by statues from the classical antiquity. Adam in particular, is based on the famous Hellenistic statue of Apollo Belvedere that was recently found in Italy. I have had the opportunity to look at a drawing of the statue while in Italy (Albrecht Durer: Adam and Eve, 2006).


Albrecht Durer: Adam and Eve. (2006). In Heilbrunn Timeline of Art History. Retrieved from:
Albrecht Durer: Salvator Mundi. (2006). In Heilbrunn Timeline of Art History. Retrieved from:
Berger, J. (2004). Durer. Köln: Taschen
Nash, S. (2008). Northern Renaissance art. Oxford: Oxford University Press
Stokstad, M. and Cothren, M.W. (2011). Art History, vol. II, 4th edition. New Jersey: Prentice Hall
Woods, K. (1999). Northern Europe in the sixteenth century: Introduction. In E. Barker, N. Webb & K. Woods (Eds.), The changing status of the artist (pp. 103-108). New Haven and London: Yale University Press

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