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Portrait of Maximilian I

Albrecht Dürer1519

Kunsthistorisches Museum Wien

Kunsthistorisches Museum Wien

In 1512 Dürer was asked by Maximilian to participate in extensive artistic projects, which, as the emperor openly admitted, were designed to preserve his posthumous reputation. The project that was most obviously connected with that purpose was the planning of his tomb – never completed – in Innsbruck, and here Dürer was also involved from time to time. In 1518, in a completely different context, he had the opportunity of making a charcoal drawing of the aging Habsburg emperor during the imperial diet at Augsburg. The study (Vienna, Albertina) was the model for a painted portrait, which may have been commissioned by Jakob Fugger, who founded Augsburg’s Fuggerei (the world’soldest social settlement) and the Fugger trading company. Dürer portrays the emperor as an elegant private gentleman. Here the painter adopted an existing type in the tradition of Habsburg portraits but combined it with incomparable mastery of the demands of the state portrait. The emperor is not wearing the outward signs of his high rank; even the otherwise obligatory neck chain of the Order of the Golden Fleece is not worn on the emperor’s body but appears at the upper left in the background. Instead, the desired impression of power and dignity is provided by the way the emperor fills the frame, the precious fabrics and the brilliantly painted fur collar, Timelessness and distance are suggested by the monochrome background. The monumentality of Maximilian’s physical appearance has imperial character; the precise depiction of quiet melancholy and fatigue on his face in no way diminishes the extraordinary importance of the subject. Several interpretations have been proposed for the pomegranate in his hand, all of which may be correct: it may be a private replacement for the imperial orb, a reference to the myth of Persephone and thus to the fact that Maximilian had already died, and/or an allusion to the conquest of Granada by Christian armies in 1492. © Cäcilia Bischoff, Masterpieces of the Picture Gallery. A Brief Guide to the Kunsthistorisches Museum, Vienna 2010

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Details

  • Title: Portrait of Maximilian I
  • Creator: Albrecht Dürer
  • Date Created: 1519
  • Style: German Renaissance
  • Provenance: early imperial possession, since 1783 known to be in the Gallery
  • Physical Dimensions: w615 x h740 cm (without frame)
  • Inventory Number: GG 825
  • Artist Biography: Though Dürer lamented Germany's medieval conception of artists, Italian Renaissance ideas first came north in a powerful way through him. Dürer initially trained in Nuremberg as a goldsmith, painter, and woodcutter. After visiting Venice in 1495, he intensely studied mathematics, geometry, Latin, and humanist literature. He expressed himself primarily through prints; painting was less profitable, and Lutheran church reformers disdained most religious artworks. Dürer's paintings are few and more traditional than his engravings and woodcuts. In 1498 he published the first book entirely produced by an artist, The Apocalypse, which included fourteen woodcuts illustrating the Book of Revelation. Its vivid imagery, masterly draftsmanship, and complex iconography established his reputation. After visiting Italy again from 1505 to 1507, Dürer's art assimilated Renaissance principles. Despite the impressive scope of his workshop, Dürer left no direct successors, though his easily transportable prints were influential throughout Europe. ©J. Paul Getty Trust
  • Type: paintings
  • External Link: http://www.khm.at/en/collections/picture-gallery
  • Medium: Oil on Wood

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