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holiday. They felt conscious of doing what their schoolmaster meant them to do, though they were actually doing just what they liked. It was all for the glory of God in Dürer’s mind; but how or why God should be pleased with what he did, did not trouble him. He engraved and sold impressions of a plate representing a sow with eight legs; he made a drawing, which is at Oxford, of an infant girl with two heads and four arms, and calmly wrote beneath it:–

Item, in the year reckoned 1512, after the birth of Christ, such a creature (_Frucht_) as is represented above, was born in Bavaria, on the Lord of Werdenberg’s land, in a village named Ertingen over against Riedlingen. It was on the 20th of the hay month (July), and they were baptized, the one head Elspett, the other Margrett.

Just so, Luther is no more than St. Paul abashed to say that God had need of some men intended for dishonour, as a potter makes some vessels for honourable, some for dishonourable uses. The modern mind at once reflects: “If that is the case, so much the worse for God; by so much is it impossible that I should ever worship Him;” and it will prefer any prolongation of “that most wholesome frame of mind, a suspended judgment,” to accepting a solution so cheap as that offered by the Apostle and Reformer, which has come to seem simply injurious.

The spirit of the enlarged schoolboy was, I think, really the attitude of the best minds then and onwards to Descartes and Spinoza. They gave themselves up to the study of nature without ceasing to belong to their school, yet freed, as on a holiday, from the constraint of being actually in it. Yet, in regard to their personal and social life, at least north of the Alps, the majority of such men were very consciously and dutifully under “their great taskmaster’s eye”; and in that also they differ in a measure from the more part of modern scientists.

Dürer made up a rhinoceros from a sketch and description sent to him from Portugal, whither the uncouth creature had been brought in a ship from Goa. Dürer’s drawing was engraved and became the parent of innumerable rhinoceroses in lesson-books, doing service right down well into the late century, as Thausing assures us. The unfortunate original was sent as a present to Leo X., who wanted to see him fight with an elephant which had made him laugh by squirting water and kneeling down to be blessed as sensibly as a Christian. So the poor beast was shipped again, only to be shipwrecked near Porto Venere, where he was last seen swimming valiantly, but hopelessly impeded by his chain, and baffled by the rocky shore. In the Netherlands, Dürer’s curiosity to see a whale nearly resulted in his own shipwreck, and indirectly produced the malady which finally killed him. But Dürer’s curiosity was really most scientific where it was most artistic; in his portraits, in his studies of plants and birds and the noses of stags, or the slumber of lions.

Doubtless it was not a very dissimilar motive which gained him entrance into the women’s bath at Nuremberg, for we see he must have been there by the beautiful pen drawing at Bremen and the slighter one of the same subject at Chatsworth. These drawings may also illustrate what in his book on the Proportion he calls the words of difference–stout, lean, short, tall, &c. (see p. 285), as he would seem to have chosen types as various as possible, ranging from the human sow to the slim and dignified beauty. In the same spirit he studied perspective and the art of measuring; he felt the importance to art of inquiry in these directions; nevertheless, to seize the beautiful elements in nature was ever the object of his efforts, however, roundabout they may sometimes appear to us. “The sight of a fine human figure is above all things the most pleasing to us, wherefore I will first construct the right proportions of a man.” (See p. 321.) His aesthetic curiosity had nothing in common with that which considers all objects and appearances as equally interesting. What he meant by Nature, when he bid the artist have continual recourse to her, was far from being the momentary and accidental appearance of any thing or things anywhere,–which the modern “student of Nature” admires because he has neither sufficient force of character to prefer, nor sufficient right feeling to defer to the preferences of those who have more.

Leonardo’s natural history is delightful reading, because it combines such fantastic and inventive fables as surpass even the happiest efforts of our nonsense writers with a beautiful openness of mind which we see oftener in children than in sages,–which is, in fact, the seriousness of those who are truly learning, and are not too conscious of what has already been learnt.

As a boy adds to the pleasure he has in adventuring further and further into a cave the delight of awesome supposition–for what may not the next turn reveal?–and is pleased to feel all his young machinery ready instantly to enact a panic if his torch should blow out, and laughs at each furtive rehearsal of his own terror in which he indulges;–so the Humanists turned from astronomy to astrology, and used their skill in mathematics to play with horoscopes which they more than half believed might bite. There was just enough doubt as to whether any given wonder was a miracle to make it interesting; and at any moment the pall of superstition might stifle the flickering light of inquiry, as we feel was the case when Dürer writes:

The most wonderful thing I ever saw occurred in the year 1503, when crosses fell upon many persons, and especially on children rather than on elder people. Amongst others, I saw one of the form which I have represented below. It had fallen into Eyrer’s maid’s shift, as she was sitting in the house at the back of Pirkheimer’s (i.e., in the house where Dürer was born). She was so troubled about it that she wept and cried aloud, for she feared that she must die because of it.

I have also seen a comet in the sky.

And again, the terror caused by a very bad and strange dream passes the bounds of play; and one feels that the belief that a vision of the night might produce or prefigure dreadful change was for him something a great deal more serious than for the dilettante spiritualist and wonder-tickler of to-day. He writes:

In the night between Wednesday and Thursday after Whit Sunday (May 30-31, 1525), I saw this appearance in my sleep–how many great waters fell from heaven. The first struck the earth about four miles away from me with terrific force and tremendous noise, and it broke up and drowned the whole land. I was so sore afraid that I awoke from it. Then the other waters fell, and as they fell they were very powerful, and there were many of them, some further away, some nearer. And they came down from so great a height that they all seemed to fall with an equal slowness. But when the first water that touched the earth had very nearly reached it, it fell with such swiftness, with wind and roaring, and I was so sore afraid that when I awoke my whole body trembled, and for a long while I could not recover myself. So when I arose in the morning, I painted it above here as I saw it God turn all these things to the best. ALBRECHT DÜRER.

The instinct for recording which dictates such a note as this is characteristic of Dürer, and called into being many of his drawings. Many such naïve and explicit records as that on the drawing which Raphael sent him are to be found in the flyleaves of books and on the margins of prints and drawings, his possessions. In such notes we may see not only an effect of the curiosity, and desire to arrange and co-ordinate information, which resulted in modern science; but something that is akin to that worship and respect for the deeds and productions of those long dead or in distant countries, in which the human spirit relieved itself from the oppressive expectation of judgment and vengeance which had paralysed it, as the beauty of the supernatural world was lost sight of behind its terrors, and witches and wizards engrossed the popular mind, in which for a time saints and angels had held the ascendancy. The future now became the return of a golden age; not a garish and horrible novelty called heaven and hell, but a human society beautiful as that of the Greeks, grand as that of republican Rome, sweet and hospitable as the household of Jesus and Mary. The Reformation is in part a return of the old fears; but Dürer has recorded only one bad dream, whereas he tells that he was often visited by dreams worthy of the glorious Renascence. “Would to God it were possible for me to see the work and art of the mighty masters to come, who are yet unborn, for I know that I might be improved. Ah! _how often in my_ sleep do I behold great works of art and beautiful things, the like whereof never appear to me awake, but so soon as I awake even the remembrance of them leaveth me!” Why was he not sent to Rome to see the ceiling of the Sistina and Raphael’s Stanze? Perchance it was these that he saw in his dreams?




It is even more the case with Dürer’s journal written in the Netherlands than with the letters from Venice that, like life itself, it is full of repetitions and over-insistence on what is insignificant. I quote the most interesting passages, and as there is never a good reason for doing again what has already been well done; I am happy to quote Sir Martin Conway’s excellent notes, having found occasion to add only one. Dürer set out on July 12, 1520, with his wife and her maid Susanna. It was probably this Susanna who three years later married Georg Penz, one of “the three godless painters.” Dürer took a great many prints and woodcuts, books both to sell and to give as presents; and besides he took a sketch book in which he made silver-point sketches and portraits. A good number of its pages have come down to us, and a great many of the portraits he mentions having taken were done in it, and then cut out to give to the sitter. All these drawings are on the same sized paper. We reproduce one of them here (see page 156). Besides this sketch-book he evidently had a memorandum-book in which he recorded what he did, what he spent, whom he saw, and occasionally what he felt or what he wished. The original is lost, but an old copy of it is in the Bamberg Library.

_July_ 12.–On Thursday after Kilian’s, I, Albrecht Dürer, at my own charges and costs, took myself and my wife (and maid Susanna) away to the Netherlands. And the same day, after passing through Erlangen, we put up for the night at Baiersdorf and spent there 3 pounds less 6 pfennigs.

July 13.–Next day, Friday, we came to Forchheim, and there I paid 22 pf. for the convoy.

Thence I journeyed to Bamberg, where I presented the Bishop (Georg III. Schenk von Limburg[24]) with a Madonna painting, a Life of our Lady, an Apocalypse, and a Horin’s worth of engravings. He invited me as his guest, gave me a Toll-pass[25] and three letters of introduction, and paid my bill at the inn, where I had spent about a florin.

I paid six florins in gold to the boatman who took me from Bamberg to Frankfurt.

Master Lukas Benedict and Hans,[26] the painter, sent me wine.

* * * * *

ANTWERP, _August_ 2-26, 1520.

At Antwerp I went to Jobst Plankfelt’s[27] inn, and the same evening at Fuggers’ Factor,[28] Bernhard Stecher invite and gave us a costly meal. My wife, however, dined at the inn. I paid the driver three gold florins for bringing us three, and one st. I paid for carrying the goods.

_August_ 4.–On Saturday after the feast of St. Peter in Chains my host took me to see the Burgomaster’s (Arnold van Liere) house at Antwerp. It is newly built and beyond measure large, and very well ordered, with spacious and exceedingly beautiful chambers, a tower splendidly ornamented, a very large garden–altogether a noble house, the like of which I have nowhere seen in all Germany. The house also is reached from both sides by a very long street, which has been quite newly built according to the Burgomaster’s liking and at his charges.

I paid three st. to the messenger, two pf. for bread, two pf. for ink.

August 5.–On Sunday, it was St. Oswald’s Day, the painters invited me to the hall of their guild, with my wife and maid. All their service was of silver, and they had other splendid ornaments and very costly meats. All their wives also were there. And as I was being led to the table the company stood on both sides as if they were leading some great lord. And there were amongst them men of very high position, who all behaved most respectfully towards me with deep courtesy, and promised to do everything in their power agreeable to me that they knew of. And as I was sitting there in such honour the Syndic (Adrian Horebouts) of Antwerp came, with two servants, and presented me with four cans of wine in the name of the Town Councillors of Antwerp, and they had bidden him say that they wished thereby to show their respect for me and to assure me of their good will. Wherefore I returned them my humble thanks and offered my humble service. After that came Master Peeter (Frans), the town-carpenter, and presented me with two cans of wine, with the offer of his willing services. So when we had spent a long and merry time together till late in the night, they accompanied us home with lanterns in great honour. And they begged me to be ever assured and confident of their good will, and promised that in whatever I did they would be all-helpful to me. So I thanked them and laid me down to sleep.

The Treasurer (Lorenz Sterk) also gave me a child’s head (painted) on linen, and a wooden weapon from Calicut, and one of the light wood reeds. Tomasin, too, has given me a plaited hat of alder bark. I dined once with the Portuguese, and have given a brother of Tomasin’s three fl. worth of engravings.

Herr Erasmus[29] has given me a small Spanish _mantilla_ and three men’s portraits.

I took the portrait of Herr Niklas Kratzer,[30] an astronomer. He lives with the King of England, and has been very helpful and useful to me in many matters. He is a German, a native of Munich. I also made the portrait of Tomasin’s daughter, Mistress Zutta by name. Hans Pfaffroth[31] gave me one Philips fl. for taking his portrait in charcoal. I have dined once more with Tomasin. My host’s brother-in-law entertained me and my wife once. I changed two light florins for twenty-four st. for living expenses, and I gave one st. _t&k&d_ to a man who let me see an altar-piece.

[Illustration: Silver-point drawing on a white ground, in the Berlin Print Room]

_August_ 19.–On the Sunday after our dear Lady’s Assumption I saw the great Procession from the Church of our Lady at Antwerp, when the whole town of every craft and rank was assembled, each dressed in his best according to his rank. And all ranks and guilds had their signs, by which they might be known. In the intervals great costly pole-candles were borne, and their long old Frankish trumpets of silver. There were also in the German fashion many pipers and drummers. All the instruments were loudly and noisily blown and beaten.

I saw the procession pass along the street, the people being arranged in rows, each man some distance from his neighbour, but the rows close one behind another. There were the Goldsmiths, the Painters, the Masons, the Broderers, the Sculptors, the Joiners, the Carpenters, the Sailors, the Fishermen, the Butchers, the Leatherers, the Clothmakers, the Bakers, the Tailors, the Cordwainers–indeed, workmen of all kinds, and many craftsmen and dealers who work for their livelihood. Likewise the shopkeepers and merchants and their assistants of all kinds were there. After these came the shooters with guns, bows, and cross-bows, and the horsemen and foot-soldiers also. Then followed the watch of the Lords Magistrates. Then came a fine troop all in red, nobly and splendidly clad. Before them, however, went all the religious Orders and the members of some Foundations very devoutly, all in their different robes.

A very large company of widows also took part in this procession. They support themselves with their own hands and observe a special rule. They were all dressed from head to foot in white linen garments, made expressly for the occasion, very sorrowful to see. Among them I saw some very stately persons. Last of all came the Chapter of our Lady’s Church, with all their clergy, scholars, and treasurers. Twenty persons bore the image of the Virgin Mary with the Lord Jesus, adorned in the costliest manner, to the honour of the Lord God.

In this procession very many delightful things were shown, most splendidly got up. Waggons were drawn along with masques upon ships and other structures. Behind them came the company of the Prophets in their order, and scenes from the New Testament, such as the Annunciation, the Three Holy Kings riding on great camels and on other rare beasts, very well arranged; also how our Lady fled to Egypt–very devout–and many other things, which for shortness I omit. At the end came a great Dragon which St. Margaret and her maidens led by a girdle; she was especially beautiful. Behind her came St. George with his squire, a very goodly knight in armour. In this host also rode boys and maidens most finely and splendidly dressed in the costumes of many lands, representing various Saints. From beginning to end the procession lasted more than two hours before it was gone past our house. And so many things were there that I could never write them all in a book, so I let it well alone.

* * * * *

BRUSSELS _August_ 26-_September_ 3, 1520.

In the golden chamber in the Townhall at Brussels I saw the four paintings which the great Master Roger van der Weyden[32] made. And I saw out behind the King’s house at Brussels the fountains, labyrinth, and Beast-garden[33]; anything more beautiful and pleasing to me and more like a Paradise I have never seen. Erasmus is the name of the little man who wrote out my supplication at Herr Jacob de Bannisis’ house. At Brussels is a very splendid Townhall, large, and covered with beautiful carved stonework, and it has a noble open tower. I took a portrait at night by candlelight of Master Konrad of Brussels, who was my host; I drew at the same time Doctor Lamparter’s son in charcoal, also the hostess.

I saw the things which have been brought to the King from the new land of gold (Mexico), a sun all of gold a whole fathom broad, and a moon all of silver of the same size, also two rooms full of the armour of the people there, and all manner of wondrous weapons of theirs, harness and darts, very strange clothing, beds, and all kinds of wonderful objects of human use, much better worth seeing than prodigies. These things were all so precious that they are valued at 100,000 florins. All the days of my life I have seen nothing that rejoiced my heart so much as these things, for I saw amongst them wonderful works of art, and I marvelled at the subtle _Ingenia_ of men in foreign lands. Indeed, I cannot express all that I thought there.

At Brussels I saw many other beautiful things besides, and especially I saw a fish bone there, as vast as if it had been built up of squared stones. It was a fathom long and very thick, it weighs up to 15 cwt., and its form resembles that drawn here. It stood up behind on the fish’s head. I was also in the Count of Nassau’s house,[34] which is very splendidly built and as beautifully adorned. I have again dined with my Lords (of Nürnberg).

When I was in the Nassau house in the chapel there, I saw the good picture[35] that Master Hugo van der Goes painted, and I saw the two fine large halls and the treasures everywhere in the house, also the great bed wherein fifty men can lie. And I _saw_ the great stone which the storm cast down in the field near the Lord of Nassau. The house stands high, and from it there is a most beautiful view, at which one cannot but wonder: and I do not believe that in all the German lands the like of it exists.

Master Bernard van Orley, the painter, invited me and prepared so costly a meal that I do not think ten fl. will pay for it. Lady Margaret’s Treasurer (Jan de Marnix), whom I drew, and the King’s Steward, Jehan de Metenye by name, and the Town-Treasurer named Van Busleyden invited themselves to it, to get me good company. I gave Master Bernard a _Passion_ engraved in copper, and he gave me in return a black Spanish bag worth three fl. I have also given Erasmus of Rotterdam a _Passion_ engraved in copper.

I have once more taken Erasmus of Rotterdam’s portrait[36] I gave Lorenz Sterk a sitting _Jerome_ and the _Melancholy_, and took a portrait of my hostess’ godmother. Six people whose portraits I drew at Brussels have given me nothing. I paid three st. for two buffalo horns, and one st. for two Eulenspiegels.[37]

ANTWERP, _September 6-October 4_, 1520.

I have paid one st for the printed “Entry into Antwerp,” telling how the King was received with a splendid triumph–the gates very costly adorned–and with plays, great joy, and graceful maidens whose like I have seldom seen.[38] I changed one fl. for expenses. I saw at Antwerp the bones of the giant. His leg above the knee is 5-1/2 ft. long and beyond measure heavy and very thick; so with his shoulder blades–a single one is broader than a strong man’s back–and his other limbs. The man was 18 ft. high, had ruled at Antwerp and done wondrous great feats, as is more fully written about him in an old book,[39] which the Lords of the Town possess.

[Illustration: ERASMUS From a reproduction of the drawing in the “Léon Bonnat” collection, Bayonne _Face p._ 148]

The studio (school) of Raphael of Urbino has quite broken up since his death,[40] but one of his scholars, Tommaso Vincidor of Bologna[41] by name, a good painter, desired to see me. So he came to me and has given me an antique gold ring with a very well cut stone. It is worth five fl., but already I have been offered the double for it. I gave him six fl. worth of my best prints for it. I bought a piece of calico for three st.; I paid the messenger one st.; three st. I spent in company.

I have presented a whole set of all my works to Lady Margaret, the Emperor’s daughter, and have drawn her two pictures on parchment with the greatest pains and care. All this I set at as much as thirty fl. And I have had to draw the design of a house for her physician the doctor, according to which he intends to build one; and for drawing that I would not care to take less than ten fl. I have given the servant one st., and paid one st. for brick-colour.

* * * * *

October 1.–On Monday after Michaelmas, 1520, I gave Thomas of Bologna a whole set of prints to send for me to Rome to another painter who should send me Raphael’s work[42] in return. I dined once with my wife. I paid three st. for the little tracts. The Bolognese has made my portrait;[43] he means to take it with him to Rome.

* * * * *

AACHEN, _October 7-26, 1520_.

_October_ 7.–At Aachen I saw the well-proportioned pillars,[44] with their good capitals of green and red porphyry (_Gassenstein_) which Charles the Great had brought from Rome thither and there set up. They are correctly made according to Vitruvius’ writings.

_October_ 23.–On October 23 King Karl was crowned at Aachen. There I saw all manner of lordly splendour, more magnificent than anything that those who live in our parts have seen–all, as it has been described.

* * * * *

KÖLN, _October 26–November 14, 1520_.

I bought a tract of Luther’s for five white pf., and the “Condemnation of Luther,” the pious man, for one white pf.; also a rosary for one white pf. and a girdle for two white pf., a pound of candles for one white pf.

_November_ 12.–I have made the nun’s portrait. I gave the nun seven white pf. and three half-sheet engravings. My confirmation[45] from the Emperor came to my Lords of Nürnberg for me on Monday after Martin’s, in the year 1520, after great trouble and labour.

ANTWERP, _November_ %–_December_ 3, 1520.

At Zierikzee, in Zeeland, a whale has been stranded by a high tide and a gale of wind. It is much more than 100 fathoms long, and no man living in Zeeland has seen one even a third as long as this is. The fish cannot get off the land; the people would gladly see it gone, as they fear the great stink, for it is so large that they say it could not be cut in pieces and the blubber boiled down in half a year.

ZEELAND, _December_ 3-14, 1520.

_December_ 8.–I went to Middelburg. There, in the Abbey, is a great picture painted by Jan de Mabuse–not so good in the modelling (_Hauptstreichen_) as in the colouring. I went next to the Veere, where lie ships from all lands; it is a very fine little town.

At Arnemuiden, where I landed before, a great misfortune befel me. As we were pushing ashore and getting out our rope, a great ship bumped hard against us, as we were in the act of landing, and in the crush I had let every one get out before me, so that only I, Georg Kotzler,[46] two old wives, and the skipper with a small boy were left in the ship. When now the other ship bumped against us, and I with those named was still in the ship and could not get out, the strong rope broke; and thereupon, in the same moment, a storm of wind arose, which drove our ship back with force. Then we all cried for help, but no one would risk himself for us. And the wind carried us away out to sea. Thereupon the skipper tore his hair and cried aloud, for all his men had landed and the ship was unmanned. Then were we in fear and danger, for the wind was strong and only six persons in the ship. So I spoke to the skipper that he should take courage (_er sollt ein Herz fahen_) and have hope in God, and that he should consider what was to be done. So he said that if he could haul up the small sail he would try if we could come again to land. So we toiled all together and got it feebly about half-way up, and went on again towards the land. And when the people on shore, who had already given us up, saw how we helped ourselves, they came to our aid and we got to land.

Middelburg is a good town; it has a very beautiful Townhall with a fine tower. There is much art shown in all things here. In the Abbey the stalls are very costly and beautiful, and there is a splendid gallery of stone; and there is a fine Parish Church. The town was besides excellent for sketching (_köstlich au konterfeyen_). Zeeland is fine and wonderful to see because of the water, for it stands higher than the land. I made a portrait of my host at Arnemuiden. Master Hugo and Alexander Imhof and Friedrich the Hirschvogels’ servant gave me, each of them, an Indian cocoa-nut which they had won at play, and the host gave me a sprouting bulb.

_December_ 9–Early on Monday we started again by ship and went by the Veere and Zierikzee and tried to get sight of the great fish,[47] but the tide had carried him off again.

ANTWERP, _December_ 14–_April_ 6, 1521

I have eaten alone thus often.

I took portraits of Gerhard Bombelli and the daughter of Sebastian the Procurator.

_February_ 10.–On Carnival Sunday the goldsmiths invited me to dinner early with my wife. Amongst their assembled guests were many notable men. They had prepared a most splendid meal, and did me exceeding great honour. And in the evening the old Bailiff of the town[48] invited me and gave a splendid meal, and did me great honour. Many strange masquers came there. I have drawn the portrait in charcoal of Florent Nepotis, Lady Margaret’s organist. On Monday night Herr Lopez invited me to the great banquet on Shrove-Tuesday, which lasted till two o’clock, and was very costly. Herr Lorenz Sterk gave me a Spanish fur. To the above-mentioned feast very many came in costly masks, and especially Tomasin and Brandan. I won two fl. at play.

I dined once with the Frenchman, twice with the Hirschvogels’ Fritz, and once with Master Peter Aegidius[49] the Secretary, when Erasmus of Rotterdam also dined with us.

I have twice more drawn with the metal-point the portrait of the beautiful maiden for Gerhard.

I made Tomasin a design, drawn and tinted in half colours, after which he intends to have his house painted.

I bought the five silk girdles, which I mean to give away, for three fl. sixteen st.; also a border (_Borte_) for twenty st. These six borders I sent to the wives of Caspar Nützel, Hans Imhof, Sträub, the two Spenglers, and Löffelholz,[50] and to each a good pair of gloves. To Pirkheimer I sent a large cap, a costly inkstand of buffalo horn, a silver Emperor, one pound of pistachios, and three sugar canes. To Caspar Nützel I sent a great elk’s foot, ten large fir cones, and cones of the stone-pine. To Jacob Muffel I sent a scarlet breastcloth of one ell; to Hans Imhof’s child an embroidered scarlet cap and stone-pine nuts; to Kramer’s wife four ells of silk worth four fl.; to Lochinger’s wife one ell of silk worth one fl.; to the two Spenglers a bag and three fine horns each; to Herr Hieronymus Holzschuher a very large horn.

BRUGES AND GHENT, _April_ 6-11, 1521.

I saw the chapel[51] there which Roger painted, and some pictures by a great old master. I gave one st. to the man who showed us them. Then I bought three ivory combs for thirty st. They took me next to St. Jacob’s and showed me the precious pictures by Roger and Hugo,[52] who were both great masters. Then I saw in our Lady’s Church the alabaster[53] Madonna, sculptured by Michael Angelo of Rome. After that they took me to many more churches and showed me all the good pictures, of which there is an abundance there; and when I had seen the Jan van Eyck[54] and all the other works, we came at last to the painters’ chapel, in which there are good things. Then they prepared a banquet for me, and I went with them from it to their guild-hall, where many honourable men were gathered together, both goldsmiths, painters and merchants, and they made me sup with them. They gave me presents, sought to make my acquaintance, and did me great honour. The two brothers, Jacob and Peter Mostaert, the councillors, gave me twelve cans of wine; and the whole assembly, more than sixty persons, accompanied me home with many torches. I also saw at their shooting court the great fish-tub on which they eat; it is 19 feet long, 7 feet high, and 7 feet wide. So early on Tuesday we went away, but before that I drew with the metal-point the portrait of Jan Prost, and gave his wife ten st. at parting.

* * * * *

On my arrival at Ghent the Dean of the Painters came to me and brought with him the first masters in painting; they showed me great honour, received me most courteously, offered me their goodwill and service, and supped with me. On Wednesday they took me early to the Belfry of St. John, whence I looked over the great wonderful town, yet in which even I had just been taken for something great. Then I saw Jan van Eycks picture;[55] it is a most precious painting, full of thought (_ein überköstlich hochverständig Gemühl_), and the Eve, Mary, and God the Father are specially good. Next I saw the lions and drew one with the metal-point.[56] And I saw at the place where men are beheaded on the bridge, the two statues erected (in 1371) as a sign that there a son beheaded his father.[57] Ghent is a fine and remarkable town; four great waters flow through it. I gave the sacristan (at St. Bavon’s) and the lions’ keepers three st. _trinkgeld_. I saw many wonderful things in Ghent besides, and the painters with their Dean did not leave me alone, but they ate with me morning and evening and paid for everything, and were very friendly to me. I gave away five st. at the inn at leaving.

ANTWERP, _April_ 11-_May_ 17, 1521.

In the third week after Easter (April 21-27) a violent fever seized me, with great weakness, nausea, and headache. And before, when I was in Zeeland, a wondrous sickness overcame me, such as I never heard of from any man, and this sickness remains with me. I paid six st. for cases. The monk has bound two books for me in return for the art-wares which I gave him. I bought a piece of arras to make two mantles for my mother-in-law and my wife, for ten fl. eight st. I paid the doctor eight st., and three st. to the apothecary. I also changed one fl. for expenses, and spent three st. in company. Paid the doctor ten st. I again paid the doctor six st. During my illness Rodrigo has sent me many sweetmeats. I gave the lad four st. _trinkgeld_.

[Illustration: Drawing in silver-point on prepared ground, from the Netherlands sketch-book, in the Imperial Library, Vienna]

On Friday (May 17) before Whit Sunday in the year 1521, came tidings to me at Antwerp, that Martin Luther had been so treacherously taken prisoner; for he trusted the Emperor Karl, who had granted him his herald and imperial safe conduct. But as soon as the herald had conveyed him to an unfriendly place near Eisenach he rode away, saying that he no longer needed him. Straightway there appeared ten knights, and they treacherously carried off the pious man, betrayed into their hands, a man enlightened by the Holy Ghost, a follower of the true Christian faith. And whether he yet lives I know not, or whether they have put him to death; if so, he has suffered for the truth of Christ and because he rebuked the unchristian Papacy, which strives with its heavy load of human laws against the redemption of Christ. And if he has suffered it is that we may again be robbed and stripped of the truth of our blood and sweat, that the same may be shamefully and scandalously squandered by idle-going folk, while the poor and the sick therefore die of hunger. But this is above all most grievous to me, that, may be, God will suffer us to remain still longer under their false, blind doctrine, invented and drawn up by the men alone whom they call Fathers, by whom also the precious Word of God is in many places wrongly expounded or utterly ignored.

Oh God of heaven, pity us! Oh Lord Jesus Christ, pray for Thy people! Deliver us at the fit time. Call together Thy far-scattered sheep by Thy voice in the Scripture, called Thy godly Word. Help us to know this Thy voice and to follow no other deceiving cry of human error, so that we, Lord Jesus Christ, may not fall away from Thee. Call together again the sheep of Thy pasture, who are still in part found in the Roman Church, and with them also the Indians, Muscovites, Russians, and Greeks, who have been scattered by the oppression and avarice of the Pope and by false appearance of holiness. Oh God, redeem Thy poor people constrained by heavy ban and edict, which it nowise willingly obeys, continually to sin against its conscience if it disobeys them. Never, oh God, hast Thou so horribly burdened a people with human laws as us poor folk under the Roman Chair, who daily long to be free Christians, ransomed by Thy blood. Oh highest, heavenly Father, pour into our hearts, through Thy Son, Jesus Christ, such a light, that by it we may know what messenger we are bound to obey, so that with good conscience we may lay aside the burdens of others and serve Thee, eternal, heavenly Father, with happy and joyful hearts.

And if we have lost this man, who has written more clearly than any that has lived for 140 years, and to whom Thou hast given such a spirit of the Gospel, we pray Thee, oh heavenly Father, that Thou wouldst again give Thy Holy Spirit to one, that he may gather anew everywhere together Thy Holy Christian Church, that we may again live free and in Christian manner, and so, by our good works, all unbelievers, as Turks, Heathen, and Calicuts, may of themselves turn to us and embrace the Christian faith. But, ere Thou judgest, oh Lord, Thou wiliest that, as Thy Son, Jesus Christ, was fain to die by the hands of the priests, and to rise from the dead and after to ascend up to heaven, so too in like manner it should be with Thy follower Martin Luther, whose life the Pope compasseth with his money, treacherously towards God. Him wilt thou quicken again. And as Thou, oh my Lord, ordainedst thereafter that Jerusalem should for that sin be destroyed, so wilt thou also destroy this self-assumed authority of the Roman Chair. Oh Lord, give us then the new beautified Jerusalem, which descendeth out of heaven, whereof the Apocalypse writes, the holy, pure Gospel, which is not obscured by human doctrine.

Every man who reads Martin Luther’s books may see how clear and transparent is his doctrine, because he sets forth the holy Gospel. Wherefore his books are to be held in great honour, and not to be burnt; unless indeed his adversaries, who ever strive against the truth and would make gods out of men, were also cast into the fire, they and all their opinions with them, and afterwards a new edition of Luther’s works were prepared. Oh God, if Luther be dead, who will henceforth expound to us the holy Gospel with such clearness? What, oh God, might he not still have written for us in ten or twenty years!

Oh all ye pious Christian men, help me deeply to bewail this man, inspired of God, and to pray Him yet again to send us an enlightened man. Oh Erasmus of Rotterdam, where wilt thou stop? Behold how the wicked tyranny of worldly power, the might of darkness, prevails. Hear, thou knight of Christ! Ride on by the side of the Lord Jesus. Guard the truth. Attain the martyr’s crown. Already indeed art thou an aged little man (_ein altes Männiken_), and myself have heard thee say that thou givest thyself but two years more wherein thou mayest still be fit to accomplish somewhat. Lay out the same well for the good of the Gospel and of the true Christian faith, and make thyself heard. So, as Christ says, shall the Gates of Hell (the Roman Chair) in no wise prevail against thee. And if here below thou wert to be like thy master Christ and sufferedst infamy at the hands of the liars of this time, and didst die a little the sooner, then wouldst thou the sooner pass from death unto life and be glorified in Christ. For if thou drinkest of the cup which He drank of, with Him shalt thou reign and judge with justice those who have dealt unrighteously. Oh Erasmus, cleave to this that God Himself may be thy praise, even as it is written of David. For thou mayest, yea verily thou mayest overthrow Goliath. Because God stands by the Holy Christian Church, even as He only upholds the Roman Church, according to His godly will. May He help us to everlasting salvation, who is God, the Father, the Son, and Holy Ghost, one eternal God. Amen.

Oh ye Christian men, pray God for help, for His judgment draweth nigh and His justice shall appear. Then shall we behold the innocent blood which the Pope, Priests, Bishops, and Monks have shed, judged and condemned (_Apocal._). These are the slain who lie beneath the Altar of God and cry for vengeance, to whom the voice of God answereth: Await the full number of the innocent slain, then will I judge.

* * * * *

ANTWERP, _May_ 17–_June_ 7, 1521.

Master Gerhard,[58] the illuminator, has a daughter about eighteen years old named Susanna. She has illuminated a _Salvator_ on a little sheet, for which I gave her one fl. It is very wonderful that a woman can do so much. I lost six st. at play. I saw the great Procession at Antwerp on Holy Trinity day. Master Konrad gave me a fine pair of knives, so I gave his little old man a _Life of our Lady_ in return. I have made a portrait in charcoal of Master Jan,[59] goldsmith of Brussels, also one of his wife. I have been paid two fl. for prints. Master Jan, the Brussels goldsmith, paid me three Philips fl. for what I did for him, the drawing for the seal and the two portraits. I gave the Veronica, which I painted in oils, and the _Adam and Eve_ which Franz did, to Jan, the goldsmith, in exchange for a jacinth and an agate, on which a Lucretia is engraved. Each of us valued his portion at fourteen fl. Further, I gave him a whole set of engravings for a ring and six stones. Each valued his portion at seven fl. I bought two pairs of shoes for fourteen st., and two small boxes for two st. I changed two Philips fl. for expenses. I drew three _Leadings-forth_[60] and two Mounts of Olives on five half-sheets. I took three portraits in black and white on grey paper. I also sketched in black and white on grey paper two Netherland costumes. I painted for the Englishman his coat of arms, and he gave me one fl. I have also at one time and another done many drawings and other things to serve different people, and for the more part of my work have received nothing. Andreas of Krakau paid me one Philips fl. for a shield and a child’s head. Changed one il. for expenses. I paid two fl. for sweeping-brushes. I saw the great procession at Antwerp on Corpus Christi day; it was very splendid. I gave four st. as trinkgeld. I paid the doctor six st. and one st. for a box. I have dined five times with Tomasin. I paid ten st. at the apothecary’s, and gave his wife fourteen st. for the clyster and himself…. To the monk who confessed my wife I gave eight st.

* * * * *

MECHLIN, _June 7 and 8, 1521_.

* * * * *

At Mechlin I lodged with Master Heinrich, the painter, at the sign of the Golden Head.[61] And the painters and sculptors bade me as guest at my inn and did me great honour in their gathering. I went also to Poppenreuter[62] the gunmaker’s house, and found wonderful things there. And I went to Lady Margaret’s and showed her my _Emperor,_[63] and would have presented it to her, but she so disliked it that I took it away with me.

And on Friday Lady Margaret showed me all her beautiful things. Amongst them I saw about forty small oil pictures, the like of which for precision and excellence I have never beheld. There also I saw more good works by Jan (de Mabuse), and Jacob Walch.[64] I asked my Lady for Jacob’s little book, but she said she had already promised it to her painter.[65] Then I saw many other costly things and a precious library.[66]

ANTWERP, _June_ 8–_July_ 3, 1521.

Master Lukas, who engraves in copper, asked me as his guest. He is a little man, born at Leyden in Holland; he was at Antwerp.

I have drawn with the metal-point the portrait of Master Lukas van Leyden.[67]

The man with the three rings has overreached me by half. I did not understand the matter. I bought a red cap for my god-child[68]for eighteen st. Lost twelve st. at play. Drank two st.

Cornelius Grapheus, the Secretary, gave me Luther’s “Babylonian Captivity,”[69] in return for which I gave him my three Large Books.

[Illustration: LUCAS VAN DER LEYDEN Drawing in charcoal formerly in the collection at Warwick Castle.]

I reckoned up with Jobst and found myself thirty-one fl. in his debt, which I paid him; therein were charged and deducted the two portrait heads which I painted in oils, for which he gave five pounds of borax Netherlands weight. In all my doings, spendings, sales, and other dealings, in all my connections with high and low, I have suffered loss in the Netherlands; and Lady Margaret in particular gave me nothing for what I made and presented to her. And this settlement with Jobst was made on St. Peter and Paul’s day.

On our Lady’s Visitation, as I was just about to leave Antwerp, the King of Denmark sent to me to come to him at once, and take his portrait, which I did in charcoal. I also did that of his servant Anton, and I was made to dine with the King, and he behaved graciously towards me. I have entrusted my bale to Leonhard Tucher and given over my white cloth to him. The carrier with whom I bargained did not take me; I fell out with him. Gerhard gave me some Italian seeds. I gave the new carrier (_Vicarius_) the great turtle shell, the fish-shield, the long pipe, the long weapon, the fish-fins, and the two little casks of lemons and capers to take home for me, on the day of our Lady’s Visitation, 1521.

BRUSSELS, _July_ 3-12, 1521.

I noticed how the people of Antwerp marvelled greatly when they saw the King of Denmark, to find him such a manly, handsome man and come hither through his enemy’s land with only two attendants. I saw, too, how the Emperor rode forth from Brussels to meet him, and received him honourably with great pomp. Then I saw the noble, costly banquet, which the Emperor and Lady Margaret held next day in his honour.

Thomas Bologna has given me an Italian work of art; I have also bought a work for one st.

A few days later when the Dürers arrived at Cologne the journal breaks off abruptly, as the last few leaves are missing: but there is every reason to suppose that they got back safely to Nuremberg two or three weeks later.


This journal shows us how the influence of a greater centre of civilisation strengthened the spirit of the Renascence in Dürer: it is marked by his having again taken up the paint brushes to do the best sort of work, by a new out-break of the collector’s acquisitiveness, lastly by the tone of such a passage as that wherein the procession on the Sunday after our Lady’s Assumption (p. 145) is spoken of with admiration. “Twenty persons bore the image of the Virgin Mary with the Lord Jesus, adorned in the costliest manner, to the honour of the Lord God.” Such a spectacle has a very different significance to his mind from that of another procession in honour of the Virgin, depicted in a woodcut by Michael Ostendorfer, which presents a large space in front of a temporary church; in the midst is a gaudy statue of the Virgin set upon a pillar, around whose base seven or eight persons of both sexes, whom one might suppose from their attitudes to be drunk, are seen writhing, while a procession headed by huge cierges and a cardinal’s hat on a pole encircles the whole building; those in the procession carrying offerings or else candles, two men being naked save for scanty hair shirts. On the margin of the copy now at Coburg Dürer has written: “1523, this Spectre, contrary to Holy Scripture, has set itself up at Regensburg and has been dressed out by the Bishop. God help us that we should not so dishonour His precious mother but (honour her?) in Christ Jesus. Amen.” Indeed, it would be difficult to distinguish between the kind of honour done the Virgin in many of Dürer’s pictures and etchings and that done her in the Antwerp procession; but both are infinitely removed from the degradation of emotion produced by an orgy of superstition such as that depicted in Ostendorfer’s print, which is truly nearer akin to the scenes that occasionally occur in Salvation Army or Methodist revivals, and is even more repugnant to the spirit of the Renascence than to that of the Reformation as Luther and Dürer conceived of it. It is well to remind ourselves, by reading such a passage and by gazing at Dürer’s Virgins enthroned and crowned with stars, that the attitude of later Protestants in regard to the worship of the Virgin was in no sense shared by Dürer. And we touch the very pulse of the Renaissance in the phrase, “Being a painter, I looked about me a little more boldly,”–by which Dürer explains that the beautiful maidens, almost naked, who figured in the mythological groups along the route of Charles V.’s triumphal entry into Antwerp received a very different reward, in his attentive gaze, to that which was meted to them by the young, austere, and unreformed Charles. One might almost be listening to Vasari when Dürer says: “I saw out behind the King’s house at Brussels the fountains, labyrinth and Beast-garden; anything more beautiful and pleasing to me and more like Paradise I have never seen.” Dürer’s admiration for Luther was like Michael Angelo’s for Savonarola, and he never doubted that fiery indignation was directed against the abuse of wealth, force, and beauty, not against their use; though perhaps both the Italian and the German reformer occasionally confused the two.


Duress journey was successful in that he obtained from Charles V. what he sought–the confirmation of his privilegium.

CHARLES, by God’s grace, Roman Emperor Elect, etc.

Honourable, trusty, and well-beloved,

Whereas the most illustrious Prince, Emperor Maximilian, our dear lord and grandfather of praiseworthy memory, appointed and assigned unto our and the Empire’s trusty and well-beloved Albrecht Dürer the sum of 100 florins Rhenish every year of his life to be paid from and out of our and the Empire’s customary town contributions, which you are bound to render yearly into our Imperial Treasury; and whereas we, as Roman Emperor, have graciously agreed thereto, and have granted anew this life pension unto him according to the terms of the above letter; we therefore earnestly command you, and it is our will, that you render and give unto the said Albrecht Dürer henceforward every year of his life, from and out of the said town contributions and in return for his proper quittance, the said life pension of 100 florins Rhenish, together with whatever part of it stands over unpaid since the Emperor Maximilian’s grant; etc.

Given at our and the Holy Empire’s town Köln on the fourth day of the month November (1520), etc.

(Signed) KARL.
(Signed) ALBRECHT, Cardinal, Archbishop of Mainz, Chancellor.

Besides, he got back to Nuremberg without falling in with highwaymen, though the following little letter shows us that in this he was fortunate.

Dear Master Wolf Stromer,–My most gracious lord of Salzburg has sent me a letter by the hand of his glass-painter. I shall be glad to do anything I can to help him. He is to buy glass and materials here. He tells me that near Freistadtlein he was robbed and had twenty florins taken from him. He has asked me to send him to you, for his gracious lord told him if he wanted anything to let you know. I send him, therefore, to your Wisdom with my apprentice. Your Wisdom’s,


No doubt he had enriched his mind and cheered his heart in the company of prosperous, go-ahead, and earnest men; but as he says, “when I was in Zeeland, a wondrous sickness overcame me, such as I never heard of from any man, and this sickness remains with me” (see p. 156). And, alas! it was to remain with him till he died of it. So that his journey cannot be considered as altogether fortunate.


[Footnote 24: He was one of the leading Humanists of the time. The Madonna referred to was still at Bamberg, at the beginning of the present century.]

[Footnote 25: Owing to the existence of some rudimentary form of Zollverein, Dürer’s pass not only freed him of dues in the Bamberg district but as far down the Rhine as Köln.]

[Footnote 26: Hans Wolf, successor to Hans Wolfgang Katzheimer.]

[Footnote 27: There is a portrait drawing of Jobst Plankfelt by Dürer in the Städel collection at Frankfurt.]

[Footnote 28: That is the head of the Fuggers’ branch house at Antwerp.]

[Footnote 29: Erasmus of Rotterdam, the famous Humanist.]

[Footnote 30: Holbein also painted a portrait of this man in 1528. The picture is in the Louvre.]

[Footnote 31: A pen-and-ink likeness of him by Dürer is in the possession of the painter Bendemann, of Düsseldorf. It bears the inscription in Dürer’s hand, “1520. _Hans Pfaffroth van Dantzgen ein Starkmann_.”]

[Footnote 32: These were four pictures painted upon linen. They represented _The justice of Trajan, Pope Gregory praying for the Heathen_, and two incidents in the story of Erkenbald. The pictures were burnt in 1695, but their compositions are reproduced in the well-known Burgundian tapestries at Bern. See Pinchart, in the _Bulletins de l’Academie de Bruxelles_, 2nd Series, XVII.: also Kinkel, _Die brusseler Rathhausbilder_, &c., Zurich, 1867.]

[Footnote 33: A rapid sketch made by Dürer in this place is in the Academy at Vienna. It is dated 1520, and inscribed, “that is the pleasure and beast-garden at Brussels, seen down behind out of the Palace.”]

[Footnote 34: A reproduction of an old view of this house will be found in _L’Art_, 1884, I. p. 188.]

[Footnote 35: This picture was painted on four panels and represented the Seven Sacraments and a Crucifix. It is now lost. A similar picture is in the Antwerp Gallery, ascribed to Roger van der Weyden.]

[Footnote 36: This is perhaps the drawing in the Bounat collection at Paris; it has been photographed by Braun (see illus. opposite).]

[Footnote 37: It is believed that Dürer here refers to an edition of the satirical tale edited by Thomas Murner, and published at Strassburg in 1519.]

[Footnote 38: “He afterwards particularly described to Melanchthon the splendid spectacles he had beheld, and how in what were plainly mythological groups, the most beautiful maidens figured almost naked, and covered only with a thin transparent veil. The young Emperor did not hocour them with a single glance, but Dürer himself was very glad to get near, not less for the purpose of seeing the tableaux than to have the opportunity of observing closely the perfect figures of the young girls.” As he himself says, “Being a painter, I looked about me a little more boldly.”–See Thausing’s “Life of Dürer,” vol. ii., p. 181.]

[Footnote 39: _Het oud register van diversche mandementen_, a fifteenth-century folio manuscript, still preserved in the Antwerp archives.]

[Footnote 40: On April 6, 1520.]

[Footnote 41: Tommaso was sent to Flanders in 1520 by Pope Leo X. to oversee the manufacture of the “second series” of tapestries. The painter does not seem to have returned to Italy.]

[Footnote 42: Engravings by Marcantonio from Raphael’s designs.]

[Footnote 43: The picture is lost, but an engraving of it made by And. Stock in 1629 is well-known.]

[Footnote 44: The fine monoliths brought from Ravenna and still to be seen in Aachen Cathedral.]

[Footnote 45: The confirmation of his pension; _see_ p. 166.]

[Footnote 46: Member of a Nürnberg family.]

[Footnote 47: The object of the whole expedition was doubtless, that Dürer might see and sketch the whale. In the British Museum is a study of a walrus by Dürer, dated 1521, and inscribed, “The animal whose head I have drawn here was taken in the Netherlandish sea, and was twelve Brabant ells long and had four feet.”]

[Footnote 48: Gerhard van de Werve.]

[Footnote 49: Pupil and afterwards friend of Erasmus.]

[Footnote 50: These people were Dürer’s principal Nürnberg friends.]

[Footnote 51: It is assumed by commentators that _Chapel_ means _Altar-piece_, and it is guessed that the particular altar-piece is the one in the Berlin Museum which Charles V. is reported to have carried about with him, and which belonged to the Miraflores Convent. The guesses are worthless.]

[Footnote 52: In St. Jacob’s was the _Entombment_ by Hugo van der Goes.]

[Footnote 53: It is in white marble. It was sculpted about 1501-6. Some critics have refused to accept it as a genuine work. Dürer ought to have been in a position to know the truth.]

[Footnote 54: At this time there were plenty of his pictures at Bruges. Dürer doubtless saw his Madonna in St. Donatien’s, now in the Academy of the same town.]

[Footnote 55: The famous altar-piece painted by Hubert and Jan van Eyck, of which the central part is still in its original place and the wings are divided, two of their panels being at Brussels and the rest at Berlin.]

[Footnote 56: This drawing from Dürer’s sketch-book is in the Court Library at Vienna (see pl. opposite).]

[Footnote 57: The story is recounted in _Flandria illustrata_ (A. Sanderi, Colon., 1641, i. 149.)]

[Footnote 58: Gerhard Horeboul of Ghent. Charles V.’s ‘Book of Hours’ in the Vienna library is his work. He also had a hand in the Grimani Breviary. After 1521 he went to England and entered the service of Henry VIII. His daughter Susanna was likewise in the service of the English King. She married and died in England.]

[Footnote 59: Perhaps Jan van den Perre, afterwards goldsmith to Charles V.]

[Footnote 60: That is to say, drawings representing _Christ bearing HIS CROSS_. _Mount of Olives_ means the Agony _in the_ Garden.]

[Footnote 61: The inn-keeper of the _Golden Head_ is known to have been a painter. His name was Heinrich Keldermann.]

[Footnote 62: Though born at Köln, he was called Hans von Nürnberg. He was cannon-founder and gun-maker to Charles V.]

[Footnote 63: Doubtless Dürer’s portrait of Maximilian, now in the Gallery at Vienna, dated 1519. (_see_ p. 215).]

[Footnote 64: Jacopo de’ Barbari.]

[Footnote 65: Bernard van Orley.]

[Footnote 66: The catalogue of this library exists in the inventory of the Archduchess’ possessions.]

[Footnote 67: This is in the Musée Wicar at Lille; another portrait of Lukas van Leyden by Dürer was in the Earl of Warwick’s collection (_see_ opposite).]

[Footnote 68: Hieronymus Imhof.]

[Footnote 69: A quarto tract by Luther, printed in 1520 (without place or date), entitled _Von der Babylonischen gefenglnuss der Kirchen_.]




Dürer came back home with health broken: yet it is to this period that the magnificent portraits at Berlin of Nuremberg Councillors belong, and certainly his hand and eye had never been more sure than when he produced them. The hall of the Rathhaus was decorated under his direction and from his designs, the actual painting being, it is supposed, chiefly the work of George Penz, who with his fellow prentices became famous in 1524 as one of “the three godless painters.”

We now come to a letter dated

NÜRNBERG, _December_ 5, 1523, Sunday after Andrew’s

My dear and gracious Master Frey–I have received the little book you sent to Master (Ulrich) Varnbüler and me; when he has finished reading it I will read it too. As to the monkey-dance you want me to draw for you, I have drawn this one here, unskilfully enough, for it is a long time since I saw any monkeys; so pray put up with it. Convey my willing service to Herr Zwingli (the reformer), Hans Leu (a Protestant painter), Hans Urich, and my other good masters. ALBRECHT DÜRER. Divide these five little prints amongst you: I have nothing else new.

This Master Felix Frey was a reformer at Zurich: he was probably not closely related to Hans Frey, Dürer’s father-in-law, whose death is thus recorded in Dürer’s book:

In the year 1523 (as they reckon it), on our dear Lady’s Day, when she was offered in the Temple, early, before the morning chimes, Hans Frey, my dear father-in-law, passed away. He had lain ill for almost six years and suffered quite incredible adversities in this world. He received the Sacraments before he died. God Almighty be gracious to him.

Next we have letters from and to Niklas Kratzer, Astronomer to Henry VIII. He had been present when Dürer drew Erasmus’ portrait at Antwerp. Dürer had also made a drawing of Kratzer, and later on Holbein was to paint his masterpiece in the Louvre from the Oxford professor.

To the honourable and accomplished Albrecht Dürer, burgher of Nürnberg, my dear Master and Friend. LONDON, _October_ 24, 1524. Honourable, dear Sir,

I am very glad to hear of your good health and that of your wife. I have had Hans Pomer staying with me in England. Now that you are all evangelical in Nürnberg I must write to you. God grant you grace to persevere; the adversaries, indeed, are strong, but God is stronger, and is wont to help the sick who call upon Him and acknowledge Him. I want you, dear Herr Albrecht Dürer, to make a drawing for me of the instrument you saw at Herr Pirkheimer’s, wherewith they measure distances both far and wide. You told me about it at Antwerp. Or perhaps Herr Pirkheimer would send me the design of it–he would be doing me a great favour. I want also to know how much a set of impressions of all your prints costs, and whether anything new has come out at Nürnberg relating to my art. I hear that our friend Hans, the astronomer, is dead. Would you write and tell me what instruments and the like he has left, and also where our Stabius’ prints and wood-blocks are to be found? Greet Herr Pirkheimer for me. I hope to make him a map of England, which is a great country, and was unknown to Ptolemy. He would like to see it. All those who have written about England have seen no more than a small part of it. You cannot write to me any longer through Hans Pomer. Pray send me the woodcut which represents Stabius as S. Koloman.[70]I have nothing more to say that would interest you, so God bless you. Given at London, October 24. Your servant, NIKLAS KRATZEH. Greet your wife heartily for me.

To the honourable and venerable Herr Niklas Kratzer, servant to his Royal Majesty in England, my gracious Master and Friend.

NÜRNBERG, Monday after Barbara’s (_December_ 5), 1524.

First my most willing service to you, dear Herr Niklas. I have received and read your letter with pleasure, and am glad to hear that things are going well with you. I have spoken for you to Herr Wilibald Pirkheimer about the instrument you wanted to have. He is having one made for you, and is going to send it to you with a letter. The things Herr Hans left when he died have all been scattered; as I was away at the time of his death I cannot find out where they are gone to. The same has happened to Stabius’ things; they were all taken to Austria, and I can tell you no more about them. I should like to know whether you have yet begun to translate Euclid into German, as you told me, if you had time, you would do.

We have to stand in disgrace and danger for the sake of the Christian faith, for they abuse us as heretics; but may God grant us His grace and strengthen us in His word, for we must obey Him rather than men. It is better to lose life and goods than that God should cast us, body and soul, into hell-fire. Therefore, may He confirm us in that which is good, and enlighten our adversaries, poor, miserable, blind creatures, that they may not perish in their errors.

Now God bless you! I send you two likenesses, printed from copper, which you will know well. At present I have no good news to write you, but much evil. However, only God’s will cometh to pass. Your Wisdom’s,


Another letter to Dürer from Cornelius Grapheus at Antwerp gives us some help towards understanding how the Reformation affected Dürer and his friends.

To Master Albrecht Dürer, unrivalled chief in the art of painting, my friend and most beloved brother in Christ, at Nürnberg; or in his absence to Wilibald Pirkheimer.

I wrote a good long letter to you, some time ago, in the name of our common friend Thomas Bombelli, but we have received no answer from you. We are, therefore, the more anxious to hear even three words from you, that we may know how you are and what is going on in your parts, for there is no doubt that great events are happening. Thomas Bombelli sends you his heartiest greeting. I beg you, as I did in my last letter, to greet Wilibald Pirkheimer a score of times for me. Of my own condition I will tell you nothing. The bearers of this letter will be able to acquaint you with everything. They are very good men and most sincere Christians. I commend, them to you and my friend Pirkheimer as if they were myself; for they, themselves the best of men, merit the highest recommendation to the best of men. Farewell, dearest Albrecht. Amongst us there is a great and daily increasing persecution on account of the Gospel. Our brethren, the bearers, will tell you all about it more openly. Again farewell.

Wholly yours,


ANTWERP, _February_ 23, 1524.


The events which made Dürer an ardent Evangelical and Reformer in a coarser paste proved a leaven of anarchy and subversion. Young, hot-headed nobles like Ulrich Von Hutten became iconoclastic, were foremost at the dispersion of convents and nunneries, often playing a part on such occasions that was anything but a credit to the cause they were championing. Among the prentice lads and among the peasants, the unrest, discontent, and appetite for change took forms if not more offensive at least more alarming. The Peasants’ War gave rulers a foretaste of the panic they were to undergo at the time of the French Revolution. And in the towns men like “the three godless painters” made the burghers shake in their shoes for the social order which kept them rich and respected and others poor and servile. It is strange that all three should have come from Dürer’s workshop. Probably they were the most talented prentices of the craft, since the great master chose them: besides, painting was an occupation which allowed of a certain intellectual development. They may have often listened with hungry ears to disputes between Pirkheimer and Dürer, and envied the good luck, grace and gift which had enabled the latter to bridge over a gulf as great as that which separated them from him, between him and Pirkheimer or Vambüler. All this and much more we can by taking thought imagine to our satisfaction; but the point which we would most desire to satisfactorily conjecture we are utterly in the dark about. Though his prentices were tried, Dürer appeared neither for nor against them; nor can we help ourselves to understand a fact so strange by any other mention of his attitude. He had a year or two previously married his servant, (perhaps the girl that his wife took with her to the Netherlands), to Georg Penz, who went the farthest in his scepticism, recanted soonest, and possessed least talent of the three. But this fact, which is not quite assured, narrows the grounds of conjecture but little; we still face an almost boundless blank. It is difficult to imagine that Dürer was quite as shocked as the Town Council by a man who said “he had some idea that there was a God, but did not know rightly what conception to form of him,” who was so unfortunate as to think “nothing” of Christ, and could not believe in the Holy Gospel or in the word of God; and who failed to recognise “a master of himself, his goods and everything belonging to him” in the Council of Nuremberg. Now-a-days, when we think of the licence of assertion that has obtained on these questions, we are inclined to admire the honesty and intellectual clarity of such a confession. And Dürer, who resolved the similar question of authority as to “things beautiful” in a manner much the same as this, may, we can at least hope, have viewed his prentices with more of pity than of anger. All the three “godless painters” were banished from reformed Nuremberg; but Georg, whose confession had been most godless, recanted and was allowed to return. The others, Sebald and Barthel Beham, managed to perpetuate their names as “little masters” without the approbation of the Town Councillors, and are to-day less forgotten than those who condemned them. Hieronymus Andreae, the most skilful and famous of Dürer’s wood engravers, caused the Council the same kind of alarm and concern. He took part with the peasants in their rebellion; but rebellion against a known authority was more pardonable than that against the unknown, or else his services were of greater value. At any rate he was pardoned not once but many times, being apparently an obstreperous character.


If we can form no conjecture as to Dürer’s relations with his heretical aids, we have evidence as to his relations with their judges; for in 1524 he wrote to the Town Council thus:

Prudent, honourable and wise, most gracious Masters,–During long years, by hardworking pains and labour under Gods blessing, I have saved out of my earnings as much as 1000 florins Rhenish, which I should now be glad to invest for my support.

I know, indeed, that your Honours are not often wont at the present time to grant interest at the rate of one florin for twenty; and I have been told that before now other applications of a like kind have been refused. It is not, therefore, without scruple that I address your Honours in this matter. Yet my necessities impel me to prefer this request to your Honours, and I am encouraged to do so above all by the particularly gracious favour which I have always received from your Honourable Wisdoms, as well as by the following considerations.

Your Wisdoms know how I have always hitherto shown myself dutiful, willing, and zealous in all matters that concerned your Wisdoms and the common weal of the town. You know, moreover, how, before now, I have served many individual members of the Council, as well as of the community here, gratuitously rather than for pay, when they stood in need of my help, art, and labour. I can also write with truth that, during the thirty years I have stayed at home, I have not received from people in this town work worth 500 florins–truly a trifling and ridiculous sum–and not a fifth part of that has been profit. I have, on the contrary, earned and attained all my property (which, God knows, has grown irksome to me) from Princes, Lords, and other foreign persons, so that I only spend in this town what I have earned from foreigners.

Doubtless, also, your Honours remember that at one time Emperor Maximilian, of most praiseworthy memory, in return for the manifold services which I had performed for him, year after year, of his own impulse and imperial charity wanted to make me free of taxes in this town. At the instance, however, of some of the elder Councillors, who treated with me in the matter in the name of the Council, I willingly resigned that privilege, in order to honour the said Councillors and to maintain their privileges, usages, and rights.

Again, nineteen years ago, the government of Venice offered to appoint me to an office and to give me a salary of 200 ducats a year. So, too, only a short time ago when I was in the Netherlands, the Council of Antwerp would have given me 300 Philipsgulden a year, kept me there free of taxes, and honoured me with a well-built house; and besides I should have been paid in addition at both places for all the work I might have done for the gentry. But I declined all this, because of the particular love and affection which I bear to your honourable Wisdoms and to my fatherland, this honourable town, preferring, as I did, to live under your Wisdoms in a moderate way rather than to be rich and held in honour in other places.

It is, therefore, my most submissive prayer to your Honours, that you will be pleased graciously to take these facts into consideration, and to receive from me on my account these 1000 florins, paying me 50 florins a year as interest. I could, indeed, place them well with other respectable parties here and elsewhere, but I should prefer to see them in the hands of your Wisdoms. I and my wife will then, now that we are both growing daily older, feebler, and more helpless, possess the certainty of a fitting household for our needs; and we shall experience thereby, as formerly, your honourable Wisdoms’ favour and goodwill. To merit this from your Honours with all my powers I shall ever be found willing.

Your Wisdoms’ willing, obedient burgher,


Dürer obtained the desired five per cent. on his savings annually until his death, and afterwards his widow received four per cent. until her death.

In 1526 the grateful artist finished and dedicated to his fellow-townsmen his most important picture, representing the four temperaments in the persons of St. John, St. Peter, St. Paul, and St. Mark; he wrote thus to the Council:

Prudent, honourable, wise, dear Masters,–I have been intending, for a long time past, to show my respect for your Wisdoms by the presentation of some humble picture of mine as a remembrance; but I have been prevented from so doing by the imperfection and insignificance of my works, for I felt that with such I could not well stand before your Wisdoms. Now, however, that I have just painted a panel upon which I have bestowed more trouble than on any other painting, I considered none more worthy to keep it as a remembrance than your Wisdoms.

Therefore, I present it to your Wisdoms with the humble and urgent prayer that you will favourably and graciously receive it, and will be and continue, as I have ever found you, my kind and dear Masters.

Thus shall I be diligent to serve your Wisdoms in all humility.

Your Wisdoms’ humble


The gift was accepted, and the Council voted Dürer 100 florins, his wife 10, and his apprentice 2. Underneath the two panels which form the picture, the following was inscribed; the texts being from Luther’s Bible:

All worldly rulers in these dangerous times should give good heed that they receive not human misguidance for the Word of God, for God will have nothing added to His Word nor taken away from it. Hear, therefore, these four excellent men, Peter, John, Paul, and Mark, their warning.

Peter says in his Second Epistle in the second chapter: There were false prophets also among the people, even as there shall be false teachers among you, who privily shall bring in damnable heresies, even denying the Lord that bought them, and bring upon themselves swift destruction. And many shall follow their pernicious ways; by reason of whom the way of truth shall be evil spoken of. And through covetousness shall they with feigned words make merchandise of you: whose judgment now of a long time lingereth not, and their damnation slumbereth not.

John in his First Epistle in the fourth chapter writes thus: Beloved, believe not every spirit, but try the spirits whether they are of God: because many false prophets are gone out into the world. Hereby know ye the Spirit of God: Every spirit that confesseth that Jesus Christ is come in the flesh, is of God: and every spirit that confesseth not that Jesus Christ is come in the flesh, is not of God: and this is that spirit of antichrist, whereof ye have heard that it should come; and even now already is it in the world.

In the Second Epistle to Timothy in the third chapter St. Paul writes: This know, also, that in the last days perilous times shall come. For men shall be lovers of their own selves, covetous, boasters, proud, blasphemers, disobedient to parents, unthankful, unholy, without natural affection, truce-breakers, false accusers, incontinent, fierce, despisers of those that are good, traitors, heady, high-minded, lovers of pleasures more than lovers of God; having a form of godliness, but denying the power thereof: from such turn away. For of this sort are they which creep into houses, and lead captive silly women laden with sins, led away with divers lusts, ever learning, and never able to come to the knowledge of the truth.

St. Mark writes in his Gospel in the twelfth chapter: He said unto them in His doctrine, Beware of the scribes, which love to go in long clothing, and love salutations in the market-places, and the chief seats in the synagogues, and the uppermost rooms at feasts; which devour widows’ houses, and for a pretense make long prayers: these shall receive greater damnation.

These rather tremendous texts may make one fear that the “three godless painters” had found little pity in their master; but most sincere Christians are better than their creeds, and more charitable than the old-world imprecations, admonitions, and denunciations, with which they soothe their Cerberus of an old Adam, who is not allowed to use his teeth to the full extent that their formidable nature would seem to warrant. For have they not been told above all things to love their enemies, and do good to those whom they would naturally hate, by a master whom they really love and strive to imitate?


Dürer’s last years were given more and more to writing down his ideas for the sake of those who, coming after him, would, he was persuaded, go on far before him in the race for perfection. In 1525 he published his first book–“Instruction in the Measurement with the Compass, and Rules of Lines, Surfaces, and Solid Bodies, drawn up by Albert Dürer, and printed, for the use of all lovers of art, with appropriate diagrams.” It contains a course of applied geometry in connection with Euclid’s Elements. Dürer states from the very commencement that “his book will be of no use to any one who understands the geometry of the ‘very acute’ Euclid; for it has been written only for the young, and for those who have had no one to instruct them accurately.” Thausing tells us his work shows certain resemblances to that of Luca Pacioli, a companion of Leonardo’s, who may have been the “man who is willing to teach me the secrets of the art of perspective,” and whom Dürer in 1506 travelled from Venice to Bologna to see; it is even possible that he saw Leonardo himself in the latter town. In 1527 he issued an essay on the “Art of Fortification,” which the development of artillery was then transforming; and authorities on this very special science tell us that Dürer is the true author of the ideas on which the “new Prussian system” was founded. It was dread of the unchristian Turk who was then besieging Vienna which called forth from Dürer this excursion. He dedicated it in the following terms:

To the most illustrious, mighty prince and lord, Lord Ferdinand, King of Hungary and Bohemia, Infant of Spain, Archduke of Austria, Duke of Burgundy and Brabant, Count of Hapsburg, Flanders, and Tirol, his Roman Imperial Majesty, our most gracious Lord, Regent in the Holy Empire, my most gracious Sire.

Most illustrious mighty King, most gracious Sire,–During the lifetime of the most illustrious and mighty Emperor Maximilian of praiseworthy memory, your Majesty’s Lord and Grandsire, I experienced grace and favour from his Imperial Majesty; wherefore I consider myself no less bound to serve your Majesty according to my small powers. As it happeneth that your Majesty has commanded some towns and places to be fortified, I am induced to make known what little I know about these matters, if perchance it may please your Majesty to gather somewhat therefrom. For though my theory may not be accepted in every point, still I believe something will arise from it, here and there, useful not to your Majesty only, but to all other Princes, Lords, and Towns, that would gladly protect themselves against violence and unjust oppression. I therefore humbly pray your Majesty graciously to accept from me this evidence of my gratitude, and to be my most gracious lord,

Your Royal Majesty’s most humble


It seems that at any rate the Kronenburg Gate and Roseneck bastion of Strasburg were actually constructed in accordance with Dürer’s method.

When, on April 6, 1528, Dürer died suddenly, two volumes of his great work on “Human Proportions” were ready for the press, and enough raw material, notes, drawings, &c., to enable his friend Pirkheimer to prepare and issue the remaining two with them. Of the misunderstanding of this the most important of Dürer’s writings I shall say nothing here, as I have devoted a separate chapter to it.


It seems probable that the “wondrous sickness which overcame me in Zeeland, such as I never heard of from any man, and which sickness remains with me” of the Netherlands Journal (p. 156) was an intermittent fever. There exists at Bremen a sketch of Dürer, nude down to the waist, and pointing with his finger to a spot between the pit of the stomach and the groin, which spot he has coloured yellow; and from its size, with the other descriptions of his malady, the skilful have arrived at the above diagnosis. The words on the sketch, “The yellow spot to which my finger points is where it pains me,” seem to indicate that he had made it to send to some skilled physician. Thausing suggests either Master Jacob or Master Braun, whom he had met at Antwerp, and deduces from the length of his hair and the apparent vigour of his body, that the drawing was made soon after the disease was contracted. All doubt as to its nature would be removed, could it be made certain that by the words, “I have sent to your Grace early this year before I became ill,” in a letter to the Elector Albert dated September 4, 1523, Dürer meant to imply that at a certain period he became ill every year; but of course it is impossible to be sure of this.


If not rich, Dürer died comfortably off. Thausing tells us that his “widow entered into possession of his whole fortune;” a fourth part belonged, according to Nuremberg law, to his brothers, but she was not bound to render it to them before her death. On June 9, 1530, however, she “of her own desire, and on account of the friendly feeling which she entertained for them for her husband’s sake, and as her dear brothers-in-law,” made over both to Andreas Dürer, goldsmith, and to Caspar Altmulsteiner, on behalf of Hans Dürer, then in the service of the King of Poland, a sum of 553 florins, three pounds, eleven pfennigs, and gave them a mortgage for the remaining sum of 608 florins, two pounds, twenty-four pfennigs on the corner house in the Zistelgasse, now called the Dürer House; for the property had been valued at 6848 florins, seven pounds, twenty-four pfennigs. Johann Neudörffer, who lived opposite the Dürers, has recorded the fact that Dürer’s brother Endres inherited all his expensive colours, his copper plates and wood blocks, as well as any impressions there were, and all his drawings beside. And a year before her death, Agnes Dürer gave the interest on the 1000 florins invested in the town to found a scholarship for theological students at the University of Wittenberg; about which Melanchthon wrote to von Dietrich that he thanked God for this aid to study, and that he had praised this good deed of the widow Dürer before Luther and others. And yet Pirkheimer, in his spleen at having lost the chance of procuring some stags’ antlers which had belonged to his friend, and which he coveted, could write of Agues Dürer: “She watched him day and night and drove him to work … that he might earn money and leave it her when he died. For she always thought she was on the borders of ruin–as for the matter of that she does still–though Albrecht left her property worth as much as six thousand florins. But there! nothing was enough; and, in fact, she alone is the cause of his death!” We know that what with the four Apostles and his books Dürer’s last years were not spent on remunerative labours; nor does the Netherlands Journal contain any hint that his wife tried to restrict the employment either of his time or money. His journey into Zeeland was a pure extravagance; for the sale of a copper engraving or woodcut of a whale would have taken some time to make up for such an expense, and, as it turned out, no whale was seen or drawn; and there is no hint that Frau Dürer made reproach or complaint. On the other hand, Pirkheimer’s words probably had some slight basis; and as Dürer’s sickness increased upon him, while at the same time he applied himself less and less to making money, the anxious Frau may have become fretful or even nagging at times; and Pirkheimer, whose companionship was probably a cause of extravagances to Dürer, may have been scolded by Agnes, or heard his friend excuse himself from taking part in some convivial meeting, on the plea that his wife found he was spending out of proportion to his takings at the moment.


We have the testimony of a good number of Dürer’s friends as to the value of his character; and first let us quote from Pirkheimer–writing immediately after Dürer’s death and before’ the loss of the coveted antlers had vexed him–to a common friend Ulrich, probably Ulrich Varnbüler.

What can be more grievous for a man than to have continually to mourn, not only children and relations whom death steals from him, but friends also, and among them those whom he loved best? And though I have often had to mourn the loss of relations, still I do not know that any death ever caused me such grief as fills me now at the sudden departure of our good and dear Albrecht Dürer. Nor is this without reason, for of all men not united to me by ties of blood, I have never loved or esteemed any like him for his countless virtues and rare uprightness. And because I know, my dear Ulrich, that this blow has struck both you and me alike, I have not been afraid to give vent to my grief before you of all others, so that together we may pay the fitting tribute of tears to such a friend. He is gone, good Ulrich; our Albrecht is gone! Oh, inexorable decree of fate! Oh, miserable lot of man! Oh, pitiless severity of death! Such a man, yea, such a man, is torn from us, while so many useless and worthless men enjoy lasting happiness, and live only too long!

Thausing insists on the fact that in this letter there is no mention of Dürer’s death having been caused by his wife’s behaviour; but as the relation of Ulrich to the deceased seems to have been well-nigh as intimate as his own, there may have been no need to mention a fact painfully present to both their minds. On the other hand, it is at least as probable that the idea was not present even to the mind of the writer, who, in a style less studiously commonplace, inscribed on Dürer’s tomb:

Me. AL. DU.


(To the memory of Albrecht Dürer. All that was mortal of Albrecht Dürer is laid beneath this mound. He departed on April 6, 1528.)

Luther wrote to Eoban Hesse:

As to Dürer, it is natural and right to weep for so excellent a man; still you should rather think him blessed, as one whom Christ has taken in the fulness of His wisdom, and by a happy death, from these most troublous times, and perhaps from times even more troublous which are to come, lest one who was worthy to look upon nothing but excellence should be forced to behold things most vile. May he rest in peace. Amen.

Erasmus had some months before written and printed in a treatise on the right pronunciation of Latin and Greek an eulogy of Dürer. It is not known whether a copy had reached him before his death; in any case to most people it came like a funeral oration from the greatest scholar on the greatest artist north of the Alps. Thausing quotes the following passage from it:

I have known Dürer’s name for a long time as that of the first celebrity in the art of painting. Some call him the Apelles of our time. But I think that did Apelles live now, he, as an honourable man, would give the palm to Dürer. Apelles, it is true, made use of few and unobtrusive colours, but still he used colours; while Dürer,–admirable as he is, too, in other respects,–what can he not express with a single colour–that is to say, with black lines? He can give the effect of light and shade, brightness, foreground and background. Moreover, he reproduces _not merely the natural aspect of a thing, but also observes the laws of perfect symmetry and harmony with regard to the position of it_. He can also transfer by enchantment, so to say, upon the canvas, things which it seems not possible to represent, such as fire, sunbeams, storms, lightning, and mist; he can portray every passion, show us the whole soul of a man shining through his outward form; nay, even make us hear his very speech. All this he brings so happily before the eye with those black lines, that the picture would lose by being clothed in colour. Is it not more worthy of admiration to achieve without the winning charm of colour what Apelles only realised with its assistance?

Melanchthon wrote in a letter to Camerarius:

“It grieves me to see Germany deprived of such an artist and such a man.”

And we learn from his son-in-law, Caspar Penker, that he often spoke of Dürer with affection and respect; he writes:

Melanchthon was often, and many hours together, in Pirkheimer’s company, at the time when they were advising together about the churches and schools at Nürnberg; and Dürer, the painter, used _also_ to be invited to dinner with them. Dürer was a man of great shrewdness, and Melanchthon used to say of him that though he excelled in the art of painting, it was the least of his accomplishments. Disputes often arose between Pirkheimer and Dürer on these occasions about the matters recently discussed, and Pirkheimer used vehemently to oppose Dürer. Dürer was an excessively subtle disputant, and refuted his adversary’s arguments, just as if he had come fully prepared for the discussion. Thereupon Pirkheimer, who was rather a choleric man and liable to very severe attacks of the gout, fired up and burst forth again and again into such words as these, “What you say cannot be painted.” “Nay!” rejoined Dürer, “but what you advance cannot be put into words or even figured to the mind.” I remember hearing Melanchthon often tell this story, and in relating it he confessed his astonishment at the ingenuity and power manifested by a painter in arguing with a man of Pirkheimer’s renown.

Such scenes no doubt took place during the years after Dürer’s return from the Netherlands. Melanchthon also wrote in a letter to George von Anhalt:

I remember how that great man, distinguished alike by his intellect and his virtue, Albrecht Dürer the painter, said that as a youth he had loved bright pictures full of figures, and when considering his own productions had always admired those with the greatest variety in them. But as an older man, he had begun to observe nature and reproduce it in its native forms, and had learned that this simplicity was the greatest ornament of art. Being unable completely to attain to this ideal, he said that he was no longer an admirer of his works as heretofore, but often sighed when he looked at his pictures and thought over his want of power.

And in another letter he remembers that Dürer would say that in his youth he had found great pleasure in representing monstrous and unusual figures, but that in his later years he endeavoured to observe nature, and to imitate her as closely as possible; experience, however, had taught him how difficult it was not to err. And Thausing continues: “Melanchthon speaks even more frequently of how Dürer was pleased with pictures he had just finished, but when he saw them after a time, was ashamed of them; and those he had painted with the greatest care displeased him so much at the end of three years that he could scarcely look at them without great pain.”

And this on his appreciation of Luther’s writings:

Albrecht Dürer, painter of Nürnberg, a shrewd man, once said that there was this difference between the writings of Luther and other theologians. After reading three or four paragraphs of the first page of one of Luther’s works he could grasp the problem to be worked out in the whole. This clearness and order of arrangement was, he observed, the glory of Luther’s writings. He used, on the contrary, to say of other writers that, after reading a whole book through, he had to consider attentively what idea it was that the author intended to convey.

Lastly, Camerarius, the professor of Greek and Latin in the new school of Nuremberg, in his Latin translation of Dürer’s book on “Human Proportions,” writes thus:

It is not my present purpose to talk about art. My purpose was to speak somewhat, as needs must be, of the artificer, the author of this book. He, I trust, has become known by his virtue and his deserts, not only to his own country, but to foreign nations also. Full well I know that his praises need not our trumpetings to the world, since by his excellent works he is exalted and honoured with undying glory. Yet, as we were publishing his writings, and an opportunity arose of committing to print the life and habits of a remarkable man and a very dear friend of ours, we have judged it expedient to put together some few scraps of information, learnt partly from the conversations of others and partly from our own intercourse with him. This will give some indication of his singular skill and genius as artist and man, and cannot fail of affording pleasure to the reader. We have heard that our Albrecht was of Hungarian extraction, but that his forefathers emigrated to Germany. We can, therefore, have but little to say of his origin and birth. Though they were honourable, there can be no question but that they gained more glory from him than he from them.

Nature bestowed on him a body remarkable in build and stature, and not unworthy of the noble mind it contained; that in this, too, Nature’s Justice, extolled by Hippocrates, might not be forgotten–that Justice, which, while it assigns a grotesque form to the ape’s grotesque soul, is wont also to clothe noble minds in bodies worthy of them. His head was intelligent,[71] his eyes flashing, his nose nobly formed, and, as the Greeks say, tetrágônon. His neck was rather long, his chest broad, his body not too stout, his thighs muscular, his legs firm and steady. But his fingers–you would vow you had never seen anything more elegant.

His conversation was marked by so much sweetness and wit, that nothing displeased his hearers so much as the end of it. Letters, it is true, he had not cultivated, but the great sciences of Physics and Mathematics, which are perpetuated by letters, he had almost entirely mastered. He not only understood principles and knew how to apply them in practice, but he was able to set them forth in words. This is proved by his geometrical treatises, wherein I see nothing omitted, except what he judged to be beyond the scope of his work. An ardent zeal impelled him towards the attainment of all virtue in conduct and life, the display of which caused him to be deservedly held a most excellent man. Yet he was not of a melancholy severity nor of a repulsive gravity; nay, whatever conduced to pleasantness and cheerfulness, and was not inconsistent with honour and rectitude, he cultivated all his life and approved even in his old age. The works he has left on Gymnastic and Music are of such character.

But Nature had specially designed him for a painter, and therefore he embraced the study of that art with all his energies, and was ever desirous of observing the works and principles of the famous painters of every land, and of imitating whatever he approved in them. Moreover, with respect to those studies, he experienced the generosity and won the favour of the greatest kings and princes, and even of Maximilian himself and his grandson the Emperor Charles; and he was rewarded by them with no contemptible salary. But after his hand had, so to speak, attained its maturity, his sublime and virtue-loving genius became best discoverable in his works, for his subjects were fine and his treatment of them noble. You may judge the truth of these statements from his extant prints in honour of Maximilian, and his memorable astronomical diagrams, not to mention other works, not one of which but a painter of any nation or day would be proud to call his own. The nature of a man is never more certainly and definitely shown than in the works he produces as the fruit of his art…. What single painter has there ever been who did not reveal his character in his works? Instead of instances from ancient history, I shall content myself with examples from our own time. No one can fail to see that many painters have sought a vulgar celebrity by immodest pictures. It is not credible that those artists can be virtuous, whose minds and fingers composed such works. We have also seen pictures minutely finished and fairly well coloured, wherein, it is true, the master showed a certain talent and industry; but art was wanting. Albrecht, therefore, shall we most justly admire as an earnest guardian of piety and modesty, and as one who showed, by the magnitude of his pictures, that he was conscious of his own powers, although none even of his lesser works is to be despised. You will not find in them a single line carelessly or wrongly drawn, not a single superfluous dot.

What shall I say of the steadiness and exactitude of his hand? You might swear that rule, square, or compasses had been employed to draw lines, which he, in fact, drew with the brush, or very often with pencil or pen, unaided by artificial means, to the great marvel of those who watched him. Why should I tell how his hand so closely followed the ideas of his mind that, in a moment, he often dashed upon paper, or, as painters say, composed, sketches of every kind of thing with pencil or pen? I see I shall not be believed by my readers when I relate, that sometimes he would draw separately, not only the different parts of a composition, but even the different parts of bodies, which, when joined together, agreed with one another so well that nothing could have fitted better. In fact this consummate artist’s mind endowed with all knowledge and understanding of the truth and of the agreement of the parts one with another, governed and guided his hand and bade it trust to itself without any other aids. With like accuracy he held the brush, wherewith he drew the smallest things on canvas or wood without sketching them in beforehand, so that, far from giving ground for blame, they always won the highest praise. And this was a subject of greatest wonder to most distinguished painters, who, from their own great experience, could understand the difficulty of the thing.

I cannot forbear to tell, in this place, the story of what happened between him and Giovanni Bellini. Bellini had the highest reputation as a painter at Venice, and indeed throughout all Italy. When Albrecht was there he easily became intimate with him, and both artists naturally began to show one another specimens of their skill. Albrecht frankly admired and made much of all Bellini’s works. Bellini also candidly expressed his admiration of various features of Albrecht’s skill, and particularly the fineness and delicacy with which he drew hairs. It chanced one day that they were talking about art, and when their conversation was done Bellini said: “Will you be so kind, Albrecht, as to gratify a friend in a small matter?” “You shall soon see,” says Albrecht, “if you will ask of me anything I can do for you.” Then says Bellini: “I want you to make me a present of one of the brushes with which you draw hairs.” Dürer at once produced several, just like other brushes, and, in fact, of the kind Bellini himself used, and told him to choose those he liked best, or to take them all if he would. But Bellini, thinking he was misunderstood, said: “No, I don’t mean these, but the ones with which you draw several hairs with one stroke; they must be rather spread out and more divided, otherwise in a long sweep such regularity of curvature and distance could not be preserved.” “I use no other than these,” says Albrecht, “and to prove it, you may watch me.” Then, taking up one of the same brushes, he drew some very long wavy tresses, such as women generally wear, in the most regular order and symmetry. Bellini looked on wondering, and afterwards confessed to many that no human being could have convinced him by report of the truth of that which he had seen with his own eyes.

A similar tribute was given him, with conspicuous candour, by Andrea Mantegna, who became famous at Mantua by reducing painting to some severity of law–a fame which he was the first to merit, by digging up broken and scattered statues, and setting them up as examples of art. It is true all his work is hard and stiff, inasmuch as his hand was not trained to follow the perception and nimbleness of his mind; still it is held that there is nothing better or more perfect in art. While Andrea was lying ill at Mantua he heard that Albrecht was in Italy, and had him summoned to his side at once, in order that he might fortify his (Albrecht’s) facility and certainty of hand with scientific knowledge and principles. For Andrea often lamented in conversation with his friends that Albrecht’s facility in drawing had not been granted to him nor his learning to Albrecht. On receiving the message Albrecht, leaving all other engagements, prepared for the journey without delay. But before he could reach Mantua Andrea was dead, and Dürer used to say that this was the saddest event in all his life; for, high as Albrecht stood, his great and lofty mind was ever striving after something yet above him.

Almost with awe have we gazed upon the bearded face of the man, drawn by himself, in the manner we have described, with the brush on the canvas and without any previous sketch. The locks of the beard are almost a cubit long, and so exquisitely and cleverly drawn, at such regular distances and in so exact a manner, that the better any one understands art, the more he would admire it, and the more certain would he deem it that in fashioning these locks the hand had employed artificial aid.

Further, there is nothing foul, nothing disgraceful in his work. The thoughts of his most pure mind shunned all such things. Artist worthy of success! How like, too, are his portraits! How unerring! How true!

All these perfections he attained by reducing mere practice to art and method, in a way new at least to German painters. With Albrecht all was ready, certain, and at hand, because he had brought painting into the fixed track of rule and recalled it to scientific principles; without which, as Cicero said, though some things may be well done by help of nature, yet they cannot always be ready to hand, because they are done by chance. He first worked his principles out for his own use; afterwards with his generous and open nature he attempted to explain them in books, written to the illustrious and most learned Wilibald Pirkheimer. And he dedicated them to him in a most elegant letter which we have not translated, because we felt it to be beyond our power to render it into Latin without, so to speak, disfiguring its natural countenance. But before he could complete and publish the books, as he had hoped, he was carried off by death–a death, calm indeed and enviable, but in our view premature. If there was anything at all in that man which could seem like a fault, it was his excessive industry, which often made unfair demands upon him.

Death, as we have said, removed him from the publication of the work which he had begun, but his friends completed the task from his own manuscript. About this, in the next place, and about our own version, we shall say a few words. The work, being founded on a sort of geometrical system, is unpolished and devoid of literary style; so it seems rather rugged. But that is easily forgiven in consideration of the excellence of the matter. He requested me himself, only a few days before his death, to translate it into Latin while he should correct it; and I willingly turned my attention and studies to the work. But death, which takes everything, took from him his power of supervision and correction. His friends subsequently, after publishing the work, prevailed on me, by their claims rather than their requests, to undertake the Latin translation, and to complete after his death the task Dürer had laid upon me in his life.

If I find that my industry and devotion in this matter meet with my readers’ approval, I shall be encouraged to translate into Latin the rest of Albrecht’s treatise on painting, a work at once more finished and more laborious than the present. Moreover, his writings on other subjects will also be looked for, his Geometries and Tichismatics, in which he explained the fortification of towns according to the system of the present day. These, however, appear to be all the subjects on which he wrote books. As to the promise, which I hear certain persons are making in conversation or in writing, to publish a book by Dürer on the symmetry of the parts of the horse, I cannot but wonder from what source they will obtain after his death what he never completed during his life. Although I am well aware that Albrecht had begun to investigate the law of truth in this matter too, and had made a certain number of measurements, I also know that he lost all he had done through the treachery of certain persons, by whose means it came about that the author’s notes were stolen, so that he never cared to begin the work afresh. He had a suspicion, or rather a certainty, as to the source whence came the drones who had invaded his store; but the great man preferred to hide his knowledge, to his own loss and pain, rather than to lose sight of generosity and kindness in the pursuit of his enemies. We shall not, therefore, suffer anything that may appear to be attributed to Albrecht’s authorship, unworthy as it must evidently be of so great an artist.

A few years ago some tracts also appeared in German, containing rules, in general faulty and inappropriate, about the same matter. On these I do not care now to waste words, though the author, unless I am much mistaken, has not once repented of his publication. But these rules above-mentioned, which are easily proved to be Albrecht’s, not only because he prepared them himself for publication, but also because of their own excellence, you will, I think, obtain considerably better here than from other sources. Not that they are more finished in point of erudition and learning in the present book than elsewhere, but because those who interpret them in the author’s own workshop, among the expansions and corrections of his autograph manuscripts and the variations of his different copies, stand in the light about many points, which must of necessity seem obscure to others, however learned they may be.

This will be seen in the case of the book on Geometry, which a learned man has in hand and will shortly publish in a more elaborate form, and with more explanation of certain points than it possesses at present. For it will be increased by no less than twenty-six [Greek: schêmata] (figures) and countless corrections or improvements of earlier editions. The author himself on rereading had thus improved and amplified what had already been issued. As though he foresaw that he would publish no more, he had directed his future editors as to what was to be done about the letterpress and figures; and we shall take care that it is published at the earliest possible date in the German language, in which the author wrote it. It is only to be expected that this will be welcome to the public, who will thus return thanks for the author’s burning desire to do something by his discoveries for the public good, and for our own labour and eagerness in publishing to all nations what appears to be written only for one.

Though these testimonies may often seem either trifling, or obscured by the pedantic affectation of the writers, they, like the signatures of well-respected men, endorse the impression produced by Dürer’s works and writings. As we study the character of Dürer’s creative gift in relation to his works, several of the phrases used by Erasmus, Camerarius, and Melanchthon should take added significance, being probably remembered from conversations with the great artist himself.[72] Dürer, like Luther, was depressed and distressed at the course the Reformation had run; but, like Erasmus, though regretting and disparaging the present, he looked forward to the future, and knew “that he would be surpassed,” and had no morbid inclination to see the end and final failure of human effort in his own exhaustion.


[Footnote 70: B. 106, published in 1513. The block is in the Court Library at Vienna. Thawing says it was designed by Burgkmair or Springinklee.]

[Footnote 71: “_Caput argutum_”. The phrase is from Virgil’s description of the thorough-bred horse (_Georg. iii_). The above passage is introduced (with modifications) into Melchior Adam’s _Vitae Germ. Philos._ (p.66). where this sentence runs: “The deep-thinking, serene-souled artist was seen unmistakably in his _arched_ and _lofty_ brow and in the fiery glance of his eye.”]

[Footnote 72: In the foregoing quotations the sentences which seem to me most reminiscent of Dürer’s ideas are printed in italics.]







Dürer’s paintings have suffered more by the malignity of fortune than any of his other works. Several have disappeared entirely, and several are but wrecks of what they once were. Others are, as he tells us, “ordinary pictures,” of which “I will in a year paint a pile which no one would believe it possible for one man to do in the time,” and are perhaps more the work of assistants than of the master. Others, again, have since been repainted, more or less disastrously. Yet enough remain to show us that Dürer was not a painter born, in the sense that Titian and Correggio or Rembrandt and Rubens are; nay, not even in the sense that a Jan Van Eyck or a Mantegna is. Mantegna is certainly the painter with whom Dürer has most affinity, and whose method of employing pigment is least removed from his; but Mantegna is a born colourist–a man whose eye for colour is like a musician’s ear for melody–while Dürer is at best with difficulty able to avoid glaring discords, and, if we are to judge by the “ordinary pictures,” did not avoid them. Again, Mantegna is not so dependent on line as Dürer–nearly the whole of whose surface is produced by hatching with the brush point. These facts may, perhaps, account for the large portion of Dürer’s time devoted to engraving. As an engraver he early found a style for himself, which he continued to develop to the end of his life. As a painter he was for ever experimenting, influenced now by Jacopo de’ Barbari, again by Bellini