With Respect and Recognition

The Story of the Dürer Stammbuch of 1828

Portrait of Albert Christoph Reindel (1824) by Johann Dietrich Carl KreulThe City of Nuremberg's Art Collections, Nuremberg Municipal Museums

The Initiator: Albert Christoph Reindel

Nuremberg commemorated the 300th anniversary of Albrecht Dürer's death in 1828. Two years earlier, Albert Christoph Reindel, who was Director of the Nuremberg Kunstschule art school at the time, had already initiated an ambitious project in the artist's honor, publishing a widely regarded appeal "To German Artists." After recounting Dürer's achievements and highlighting his acknowledged greatness, Reindel called on the artistic community to honor this profoundly influential artist on April 6, 1828, the tricentennial of his death, "in a fitting, public manner." As an appropriate possibility, Reindel imagined assembling a great book "containing works from all living German artists, and made available for viewing by strangers and locals alike." Reindel's 1826 appeal was the context, then, in which the name of this "Dürer'sches Stammbuch" first appeared.

Appeal for the Tricentennial Commemoration of Albrecht Dürer's Death (1826)The City of Nuremberg's Art Collections, Nuremberg Municipal Museums

Beating the drum

Reindel went about distributing his appeal in a thoroughly professional manner. He got flyers printed up in two formats, and in November 1826 had the text printed in the widely read Kunst-Blatt, an art journal published by Ludwig Schorn. Reindel addressed his appeal to painters, sculptors, civilian and military architects, draftsmen, etchers, engravers, woodcutters, stamp cutters, "and comrades in art of all kinds."

Portrait of King Ludwig I of Bavaria (1830) by Friedrich HahnThe City of Nuremberg's Art Collections, Nuremberg Municipal Museums

Royal resistance

It was half a year before the first criticism of the planned Stammbuch arose – but it came from the highest circles. King Ludwig I of Bavaria felt it was unacceptable to commemorate the tricentennial of Dürer's death with a monument of mere ephemeral paper. He suggested raising a Dürer monument of permanent bronze in Nuremberg, and appointed Prussian sculptor Christian Daniel Rauch to create it. Ludwig made it absolutely clear that the royal will should take precedence over the bourgeois notion of a Stammbuch. The king's influence had its repercussions for Reindel's project – out of anticipatory obedience to their monarch, many major Munich artists, for instance, refused to cooperate with the Nuremberg art-school director.

The sign painter by Christian Gottfried GeißlerThe City of Nuremberg's Art Collections, Nuremberg Municipal Museums

A flop?

The "Dürer Stammbuch" threatened to be a flop. Two months before the deadline, only "several submissions" had arrived in Nuremberg – other commitments were still outstanding. On the opening day of the exhibition, Reindel presented 130 works by 57 artists, about half of them in the form of printed graphics. The exhibit met with a lukewarm response. One correspondent wrote that a Dürer Stammbuch "was supposed to be produced" in Nuremberg. Another called the collection "not insignificant" and expressed the hope that it would grow as the years went by. And – irrespective of the artistic worth of some of the paintings and drawings – the quality of the works also fell far short of the project's ambitious expectations. The submitted works, said one contemporary commentator, included many "about which one must lend more credence to the good will of the donation than its value."

The Upper Chapel at the Imperial Castle with the design of an epitaph for Albrecht Dürer by Christian Ludwig StieglitzThe City of Nuremberg's Art Collections, Nuremberg Municipal Museums

The Dürer Stammbuch at the Imperial Castle

The Dürer Stammbuch was prominently exhibited as part of the picture gallery at the Imperial Castle. Reindel had settled the non-trivial question of space in advance. The royal government's ruling committee had given him permission to use one room of the castle to store and set up the planned Stammbuch. Today, unfortunately, we cannot trace exactly where this room in the castle would have been. The Bavarian government also committed to ensure that the objects donated for the Stammbuch would "be kept together forever as a whole, and inseparably remain in this city."

Landscape by Eduard GaertnerThe City of Nuremberg's Art Collections, Nuremberg Municipal Museums

Conclusion of an ambitious project

Just a year after the museum presentation opened, Reindel had to end work on his Dürer Stammbuch. It had long been clear that further additions to the collection were unlikely. The Dürer enthusiasm of 1828 had dwindled. Ultimately the Stammbuch comprised 291 objects, arranged alphabetically by the artist's name, from Johann Adam Ackermann to Eduard Gaertner to Christine Zwinger – she and Babette Popp were the only two women to contribute to the project.

The Landauer Zwölfbrüderhaus viewed from the east (about 1700) by Johann Alexander BoenerThe City of Nuremberg's Art Collections, Nuremberg Municipal Museums

Relocation to the Landauer Zwölfbrüderhaus

The next setback came in 1833, when the Stammbuch had to abandon its prominent location at the castle in Nuremberg. King Ludwig I of Bavaria ordered the rooms to be remodeled as living quarters for the royal family. The Dürer Stammbuch was not the only tenant to be evicted: the picture gallery that had been on display at the castle since 1811 had to move as well, as did the Royal Art School – which had been downgraded in the meantime to a School of Arts and Crafts – taking along the collections it kept for study. All found new quarters in the Landauer Zwölfbrüderhaus, a former charitable retirement home for elderly craftsmen, where the city added on a new structure for the picture gallery.

Portrait of August von Kreling by A. WengerThe City of Nuremberg's Art Collections, Nuremberg Municipal Museums

Reindel dies

Albert Christoph Reindel died on February 23, 1853. His successor as director of the School of Arts and Crafts, painter and sculptor August von Kreling (1819-1876), was rather skeptical about the romantic idea of the Dürer Stammbuch; expectations about art had undergone a profound change in the quarter-century since the Stammbuch was conceived. As a rather logical consequence, under Kreling the Dürer Stammbuch gradually lost its status as a tourist attraction in Nuremberg. The last mention of it in a guide to the city comes from 1856.

Self-portrait in front of the easel (about 1840) by Heinrich Ludwig PetersenThe City of Nuremberg's Art Collections, Nuremberg Municipal Museums

Heinrich Ludwig Petersen breaks up the collection

From the very start of his tenure, Kreling took a strong interest in transferring the collection Reindel had assembled (including the Dürer Stammbuch) to the City of Nuremberg. After protracted negotiations, in 1863 the city councilors finally appointed painter Heinrich Ludwig Petersen (1806-1874) as conservator, and assigned him to take inventory of the objects so they could be incorporated into a municipal art collection. Probably on Kreling's orders, the Dürer Stammbuch was split up for the first time during this process – in his inventory Petersen treated the Stammbuch's oil paintings, sculptures, books and medallions separately. As an almost inevitable consequence, this collection – artistically significant, though numerically small – was irretrievably lost.

The Frauentorgraben with buildings of the Germanisches Nationalmuseum (before 1891) by Ferdinand SchmidtThe City of Nuremberg's Art Collections, Nuremberg Municipal Museums

Transfer to the Germanisches Nationalmuseum

The city's art collection grew rather lethargically under Petersen. So when he died in 1874, the Director of the Germanisches Nationalmuseum at the time, August von Essenwein (1831-1892), felt compelled to make the city an offer to take over its works of art. The city agreed, and thus in 1875 all its art holdings – including the Dürer Stammbuch – were transferred to the Germanisches Nationalmuseum. The contract between the city and the museum stipulated that the city's holdings would be kept and displayed as a group in their own rooms at the museum. In this way, the principal components of the Stammbuch still stayed together for decades.

Entries about the Dürer Stammbuch in the inventory of the City of Nuremberg's Art Collections (about 1880)The City of Nuremberg's Art Collections, Nuremberg Municipal Museums

The end of the Dürer Stammbuch

This situation continued until Heinrich Höhn (1881-1942) began organizing the Engravings Cabinet on academic principles. Höhn integrated the city's graphics into the museum's own holdings, and thus brought about the final dissolution of the Dürer Stammbuch. He was thus presumably also the last person to witness the Stammbuch as a unified entity. Under Höhn and his successors, the old cardboard backings from the sheets of graphics were also gradually replaced with modern matting – under Reindel, the sheets had still been mounted and labeled uniformly. In retrospect, both decisions came to be understood as serious mistakes; after all, the value of the Dürer Stammbuch, in terms of both cultural and art history, lay not in its individual pages, but in its identity as a whole. It offered what was probably a unique insight into how Dürer was viewed during the late Age of Goethe.

Ex libris for Dürer's 500th birthday (1971) by Oswin VolkamerThe City of Nuremberg's Art Collections, Nuremberg Municipal Museums

Reconstruction for Dürer's 500th birthday

Heinrich Höhn's breakup of the various works ultimately led people to assume that the Dürer Stammbuch was lost forever. Not until it came time to celebrate Dürer's 500th birthday in 1971 was Matthias Mende, then head of the Nuremberg Municipal Museums' Graphics Collection, able to reunite the dispersed contents of the Dürer Stammbuch on the basis of historical documents and inventory lists. The 2009 exhibition at Albrecht Dürer's House, titled "With Respect and Recognition," offered a last chance to view a selection of works from Reindel's pet project.

Credits: Story

The text is based on:
Matthias Mende: Zum Nürnberger Dürer-Stammbuch von 1828
in: Anzeiger des Germanischen Nationalmuseums, Nürnberg 1998

It was edited by Sebastian Heider
Implementation: Brigitte List

Credits: All media
The story featured may in some cases have been created by an independent third party and may not always represent the views of the institutions, listed below, who have supplied the content.
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