This honest, close-up view of a gentle face is in keeping with Venetian portraits of the time. The sandy hair of the unknown woman is held at the back of the head by a shining golden net, the prevailing fashion in Venice. Dürer has used carefully distributed highlights to emphasise the curly hair falling to either side of the face; it has a formal counterpart in the fine ribbons of her dress. The fact that Dürer left the preparatory underdrawing of the ribbon on the left has led to the assumption that the picture is unfinished, but technical analysis of the entire surface of the painting speaks against it. It makes sense from a compositional point of view: the colour of the one ribbon matches the woman’s hair, while the other picks up the monochrome tone of the background and is also found in the young woman’s dark eyes. Dürer arrived in Venice in the late autumn of 1505. This portrait is believed to be the first work he painted there. In addition to his adoption of the typical composition of Venetian portraits, the refreshing influence of Dürer’s new environment is also seen in his suppression of details in favour of a comprehensive view of the whole. Compared with works that he painted in the north, Dürer altered the character of the light, which appears gentle and unifying instead of brightly illuminating every contour. Anticipating his return to the north in January 1507, Dürer wrote to his friend Willibald Pirckheimer a lament that has become famous: “O wy wirt mich noch der sunnen friren. Hy pin jch ein her, doheim ein schmarotzer.” (“Oh, how shall I freeze after this sun! Here I am a gentleman, at home a parasite.”) Until it was purchased by the Kunsthistorisches Museum in 1923, the work was in the possession of a Lithuanian collector and unnoticed by the art world. © Cäcilia Bischoff, Masterpieces of the Picture Gallery. A Brief Guide to the Kunsthistorisches Museum, Vienna 2010


  • Title: Portrait of a Young Venetian Woman
  • Creator: Albrecht Dürer
  • Creator Lifespan: 1471/1528
  • Creator Nationality: german
  • Creator Gender: male
  • Creator Death Place: Nuremberg
  • Creator Birth Place: Nuremberg
  • Date Created: 1505
  • Style: German Renaissance
  • Provenance: bought 1923
  • Physical Dimensions: w245 x h325 cm (without frame)
  • Inventory Number: GG 6440
  • 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. Unlike his earlier, more Gothic woodcuts, Dürer's engravings of 1513 and 1514 suggest the influence of Italian chiaroscuro and were conceived in painterly terms, using a range of velvety tones rather than lines. His drawings include studies of hands, draperies, and costume, portraits, Madonnas, and intimate and detailed watercolor studies of nature. 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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