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Johannes Kleberger

Albrecht Dürer1526

Kunsthistorisches Museum Wien

Kunsthistorisches Museum Wien
Vienna, Austria

Johannes Kleberger was an international merchant who is believed to have returned to his hometown of Nuremberg in 1525, a year before this extravagant portrait, unique among Dürer’s works, was painted. A successful businessman with excellent connections to the French court, he had been living abroad since 1521, first in Bern and soon afterwards in Lyon, and had become one of the most important financiers of King Francis I. There is perhaps a relationship between Dürer’s commission for this painting and the marriage of Kleberger to Felizitas Imhoff in 1528: Felizitas, the daughter of the well-known Humanist and friend of Dürer, Willibald Pirckheimer, had been widowed in 1526. Pirckheimer had initially sought to prevent the remarriage of his daughter. Kleberger, who was repeatedly described as a brilliant opportunist, may have used this valuable artwork, which in its conception would have suited the Humanist, as a tool in his courtship. To Pirckheimer’s dismay, the bridegroom was to leave his new wife a year later. Kleberger is looking to his right in a decisive and concentrated manner. The almost unpleasantly moving paradox of the composition quickly becomes apparent: the bust, which appears to be pulsing with life, is cut off sharply at the bottom and is balanced in the circular opening of a wall. Only the dark background lessens the impression of instability. The Latin inscription is similar to that on classical portrait medallions, giving the name, origin and age of the subject as well as the cabbalistic sign of the sol in corde leonis, an expression of his astrological constellation at birth, which promised unusual power and strength. In consultation with Kleberger, Dürer used the four spandrel areas for other references to the character and position of his patron. At the left above,the astrological sign for Leo surrounded by six stars; to its right is the artist’s signature. At the left below a figurative coat of arms: three green clover-leaves above a yellow triple hill; to its right the clover-leaves are repeated, but with the addition of a helmet to “ennoble” them. © Cäcilia Bischoff, Masterpieces of the Picture Gallery. A Brief Guide to the Kunsthistorisches Museum, Vienna 2010

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  • Title: Johannes Kleberger
  • Creator: Albrecht Dürer
  • Date Created: 1526
  • Style: German Mannerism
  • Provenance: bought 1588 by Emperor Rudolf II.
  • Physical Dimensions: w365 x h365 cm (without frame)
  • Inventory Number: GG 850
  • 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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