ALBRECHT DURER WOODCUT OF SAMSON RENDING THE LION FINISHED

Part 1

After water baths and a treatment in the heat press, this woodcut by Albrecht Durer (1471-1528) was dried with blotters, a lengthy process that took several months. This allowed the paper to carefully stretch back to its original size, a critical step for repairing the middle section where the tear had occurred and left incongruous edges. But, once the paper was back to size, these edges had good alignment, and this helped create a seamless rejoining.

Where paper losses had occurred, new paper was added with similar qualities. In-painting concealed the areas of loss.

A new Austrian/German frame in dark mahogany was prepared, and the print covered with museum glass, a premium type of glass that is exception with delicate images as well as causing minimal to no glare.

To authenticate the print, we compared known Durer woodcuts at the Snite Museum of Art at Notre Dame as well as the Grand Rapids Art Museum. We found the watermarks to corroborate with ours, and thus, verified it as an authentic Durer woodcut that was made during his lifetime.

Albrecht Durer was born in Nuremberg, Germany on May 21, 1471, the second of eighteen children in the family of a master goldsmith. Fifteen of the children died at an early age and Durer’s mother was often sick, especially in the last years of her life. Although his father was not pleased with his artistic ambitions, at the age of fifteen, Durer was apprenticed to a painter.

Durer is arguable the greatest artist in German history. By adopting the new forms of the Italian quattrocento and connecting them to the already robust tradition of the German print, he almost single-handedly provoked the Northern Renaissance. He had an insatiably inquisitive mind and this led him to be an avid travel, which he started in 1490 before he was nineteen. Up to this time he had spent a four year apprenticeship with master painter and engraver, Michael Wolgemut. He then went to Colmar, France to work under Martin Schongauer, but it took him two years to reach Colmar, and by then Schongauer was dead. His wanderings across Europe included two trips to Venice that were capped  by a year-long sojourn in The Netherlands, where he was a celebrity among celebrities.

In moving from Nuremberg to Venice, Durer reversed a whole direction of cultural priorities. The center to which German artists had previously looked were Bruges and Ghent in Flanders, along with the northern Gothic style shaped there by artists like the Van Eycks and Hugo van der Goes. What fascinated Durer was Italian humanism and all that flowed from the discovery of classical antiquity.

Durer married Agnes Frey in 1494, and in the same year made his first visit to Venice. He would return there in 1505 and stay for two years. Meanwhile he built a great house which still stands on the castle hill in Nuremberg. Durer was a rather indifferent and rude husbands. On his own he took his wife’s dowry and setup a graphics workshop, the products of which his wife was tasked with sitting at the markets and fairs and trying to sell them. He seldom traveled with her and many years later, when he did take her on a trip to the Netherlands, he allowed her to accompany him to only one of the many banquets given in his honor. When they did stay at home, she was left upstairs to eat with the maid.

The success of Durer’s work led the way for other German artists, Matthias Grunewald, Albrecht Altdorfer, Hans Holbein the Younger and Martin Luther’s great friend, Lucas Cranach, all of whose work made Germany for half a century the leader of the Northern Renaissance.

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