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Title: Albert Dürer
Author: Moore, T. Sturge (Thomas Sturge), 1870-1944
Language: English
As this book started as an ASCII text book there are no pictures available.

*** Start of this LibraryBlog Digital Book "Albert Dürer" ***

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[Transcriber's note: The printing errors of the original have been
retained in this etext.]





When the late Mr. Arthur Strong asked me to undertake the present
volume, I pointed out to him that, to fulfil the advertised programme of
the Series he was editing, was more than could be hoped from my
attainments. He replied, that in the case of Dürer a book, fulfilling
that programme, was not called for, and that what he wished me to
attempt, was an appreciation of this great artist in relation to general
ideas. I had hoped to benefit very largely by my editor's advice and
supervision, but this his illness and death prevented. His great gifts
and brilliant accomplishments, already darkened and distressed by
disease, were all too soon to be utterly quenched; and I can but here
express, not only my sense of personal loss in the hopes which his
friendly welcome and generous intercourse had created and which have
been so cruelly dashed by the event, but also that of the void which his
disappearance has left in the too thin ranks of those who, filled with
reverence and enthusiasm for the great traditions of the past, seem
nevertheless eager and capable of grappling with the unwieldy present.
Let and restricted had been the recognition of his maturing worth, and
now we must do without both him and the impetus of his so nearly
assured success.

The present volume, then, is not the result of new research; nor is it
an abstract resuming historical and critical discoveries on its subject
up to date. Of this latter there are several already before the British
public; the former, as I said, it was not for me to attempt. Nor do I
feel my book to be altogether even what it was intended to be; but am
conscious that too much space has been given to the enumeration of
Dürer's principal works and the events of his life without either being
made exhaustive. Still, I hope that even these parts may be found
profitable by those who are not already familiar with the subjects with
which they deal. To those for whom these subjects are well known, I
should like to point out that Parts I. and IV. and very much of Part
III. embody my chief intention; that chapter 1 of Part I. finds a
further illustration in division iii. of chapter 4, Part II.; and that
division vi., chapter 1, Part II., should be taken as prefatory to
chapter 1, Part IV.

Should exception be taken to the works chosen as illustrations, I would
explain that the means of reproduction, the degree of reduction
necessitated by the size of the page, and other outside considerations,
have severely limited my choice. It is entirely owing to the extreme
kindness of the Dürer Society--more especially of its courteous and
enthusiastic secretaries, Mr. Campbell Dodgson and Mr. Peartree--that
four copper-plates have so greatly enhanced the adequacy of the volume
in this respect.

I have gratefully to acknowledge Sir Martin Conway's kindness in
permitting me to quote so liberally from his "Literary Remains of
Albrecht Dürer," by far the best book on this great artist known to me.
Mr. Charles Eaton's translation of Thausing's "Life of Dürer," the
"Portfolios of the Dürer Society," and Dr. Lippmanb "Drawings of
Albrecht Dürer," are the only other works on my subject to which I feel
bound to acknowledge my indebtedness. Lastly, I must express deep
gratitude to my learned friend, Mr. Campbell Dodgson, for having so
generously consented, by reading the proofs, to mitigate my defect in
















Apollo and Diana, Metal Engraving
Water-colour drawing of a Hare
Pilate Washing his Hands. Metal Engraving
Agnes Frey
"Mein Angnes"
Wilibald Pirkheimer
Hans Burgkmair
Adoration of the Trinity
St. Christopher
Assumption of the Magdalen
Dürer's Mother
Frederick the Wise
Silver-point Portrait
Drawing of a Lion
Lucas van der Leyden
Peter and John at the Beautiful Gate. Metal Engraving
St. George and St. Eustache
Martyrdom of Ten Thousand Saints
Road to Calvary
Portrait of Dürer
Portrait of Dürer
Albert Dürer the Elder
Gswolt Krel
Portrait at Hampton Court
Portrait of a Lady
Michel Wolgemuth
Hans Imhof
"Jakob Muffel"
Study of a Hound
Memento Mei
Silver-point Portrait
Portrait in Black Chalk
Cherub for a Crucifixion
Apollo and Diana
An Old Castle
Detail from "The Agony in the Garden"
Angel with Sudarium
The Small Horse
The Great Fortune, or Nemesis
Silver-point Drawing
St. Michael and the Dragon
Detail from "The Meeting at the Golden Gate"
Detail from "The Nativity"
Dürer's Armorial Bearings
Christ haled before Annas
The Last Supper
Saint Antony, Metal Engraving
"In the Eighteenth Year"
"Una Vilana Wendisch"
Charcoal Drawing






Ich hab vernomen wie der siben weysen aus kriechenland ainer gelert hab
das dymass in allen dingen sitlichen und naturlichen das pest sey.

DÜRER, British Museum MS., vol. iv., 82a.

I have heard how one of the Seven Sages of Greece taught that measure is
in all things, physical and moral, best.

La souveraine habileté consiste à bien connaitre le prix des choses. LA

Sovereign skill consists in thoroughly understanding the value of

The attempt that the last quarter century has witnessed, to introduce
the methods of science into the criticism of works of art, has tended,
it seems to me, to put the question of their value into the background.
The easily scandalous inquiries, "Who?" "When?" "Where?" have assumed an
impertinent predominance. When I hear people very decidedly asserting
that such a picture was painted by such an one, not generally supposed
to be the author, at such a time, &c. &c., I often feel uneasy in the
same way as one does on being addressed in a loud voice in a church or a
picture gallery, where other persons are absorbed in an acknowledged and
respected contemplation or study. I feel inclined to blush and whisper,
for fear of being supposed to know the speaker too well. It is an
awkward moment with me, for I am in fact very good friends with many
such persons. "Sovereign skill consists in thoroughly understanding the
value of things"--not their commercial value only, though that is
sovereign skill on the Exchange, but their value for those whose chief
riches are within them. The value of works of art is an intimate
experience, and cannot be estimated by the methods of exact science as
the weight of a planet can. There are and have been forgeries that are
more beautiful, therefore more valuable, than genuine specimens of the
class of work which they figure as. I feel that the specialist, with his
special measure and point of view, often endangers the fair name and
good repute of the real estimate; and that nothing but the dominion and
diffusion of general ideas can defend us against the specialist and keep
the specialist from being carried away by bad habits resulting from his
devotion to a single inquiry.

There was one general idea, of the greatest importance in determining
the true value of things, which preoccupied Dürer's mind and haunted his
imagination: the idea of proportion. I propose therefore to attempt to
make clear to myself and my readers what the idea of proportion really
implies, and of what service a sense for proportion really is; secondly,
to determine the special use of the term in relation to the appreciation
of works of art; thirdly, in relation to their internal
structure;--before proceeding to the special studies of Dürer as a man
and an artist.


I conceive the human reason to be the antagonist of all known forces
other than itself, and that therefore its most essential character is
the hope and desire to control and transform the universe; or, failing
that, to annihilate, if not the universe, at least itself and the
consciousness of a monster fact which it entirely condemns. In this
conception I believe myself to be at one with those by whom men have
been most influenced, and who, with or without confidence in the support
of unknown powers, have set themselves deliberately against the face of
things to die or conquer. This being so, and man individually weak, it
has been the avowed object of great characters--carrying with them the
instinctive consent of nations--to establish current values for all
things, according as their imagination could turn them to account as
effective aids of reason: that is, as they could be made to advance her
apparent empire over other elemental forces, such as motion, physical
life, &c. This evaluation, in so far as it is constant, results in what
we call civilisation, and is the only bond of society. With difficulty
is the value of new acquisitions recognised even in the realm of
science, until the imagination can place them in such a light as shall
make them appear to advance reason's ends, which accounts for the
reluctance that has been shown to accept many scientific results. Reason
demands that the world she would create shall be a fact, and declares
that the world she would transform is the real world, but until the
imagination can find a function for it in reason's ideal realm, every
piece of knowledge remains useless, or even an obstacle in the way of
our intended advance. This applies to individuals just as truly as it
does to mankind. And since man's reason is a natural phenomenon and does
apparently belong to the class of elemental forces, this warfare against
the apparent fact, and the fortitude and hope which its whole-hearted
prosecution begets, appear as a natural law to the intelligence and as a
command and promise to the reason.

The alternative between the will to cease and the will to serve reason,
with which I start out, may not seem necessary to all. "Forgive their
sin--and if not, blot me I pray thee out of thy book," was Moses'
prayer; and to me it seems that only by lethargy can any soul escape
from facing this alternative. The human mind in so far as it is active
always postulates, "Let that which I desire come to pass, or let me
cease!" Nor is there any diversity possible as to what really is
desirable: Man desires the full and harmonious development of his
faculties. As to how this end may most probably be attained, there is
diversity enough to represent every possible blend of ignorance with
knowledge, of lethargy with energy, of cowardice with courage.

"So endless and exorbitant are the desires of men, whether considered in
their persons or their states, that they will grasp at all, and can form
no scheme of perfect happiness with less."[1] So writes the most
powerful of English prose-writers. And this hope and desire, which is
reason, once thrown down, the most powerful among poets has brought from
human lips this estimate of life--

  "It is a tale
Told by an idiot, full of sound and fury,
Signifying nothing."

No one knows whether reason's object will or can be attained; but for
the present each man finds confidence and encouragement in so far as he
is able to imagine all things working together for the good of those who
desire good--in short, for "reasonable beings."[2] The more he knows,
the greater labour it is for him to imagine this; but the more he
concentrates his faculties on doing good and creating good things, the
more his imagination glows and shines and discovers to him new
possibilities of success: the better he is able to find--

  "Sermons in stones and good in everything;"
    "And make a moral of the devil himself."

But how is it that reason can accept an imagination that makes what in a
cold light she considers her enemy, appear her friend? All things
impress the mind with two contradictory notions--their actual condition
and their perfection. Even the worst of its kind impresses on us an idea
of what the best would be, or we could not know it for the worst.
Reason, then, seizes on this aspect of things which suggests their
perfection, and awards them her attention in proportion as such aspect
makes their perfection seem near, or as it may further her in
transforming the most pressing of other evils. All life tends to affirm
its own character; and the essential characteristic of man is reason,
which labours to perfect all things that he judges to be good, and to
transform all evil. Ultimate results are out of sight for all human
faculties except the early-waking eyes of long-chastened hope; but
reason loves this visionary mood, though she prefer that it be sung, and
find that less lyrical speech brings on it something of ridicule; for
such a rendering betrays, as a rule, faint desire or small power to
serve her in those who use it.

The sense of proportion, then, is that fineness of susceptibility by
which we appreciate in a given object, person, force, or mood,
serviceableness in regard to reason's work; in other words, by which we
estimate the capacity to transform the Universe in such a way that men
may ultimately be enabled to give their hearty consent to its existence,
which at present no man rationally can.


Now, art appeals to fine susceptibilities; for, as I have explained
elsewhere,[3] the value of works of art depends on their having come as
"real and intimate experiences to a large number of gifted men"--men who
have some kinship to that "finely touched and gifted man, the [Greek
_heuphnaes_] of the Greeks," to use the phrase of our greatest modern
critic. And in so far as we are able to judge between works successfully
making such an appeal, we must be governed by this sense of proportion,
which measures how things stand in regard to reason; that is, not merely
intellect, not merely emotion, but the alliance of both by means of the
imagination in aid of man's most central demand--the demand for
nobler life.

Perhaps I ought to point out before proceeding, that this position is
not that of the writers on art most in view at the present day. It is
the negation of the so-called scientific criticism, and also of the
personal theory that reduces art to an expression of, and an appeal to,
individual temperaments; it is the assertion of the sovereignty of the
aesthetic conscience on exactly the same grounds as sovereignty is
claimed for the moral conscience. Æsthetics deals with the morality of
appeals addressed to the senses. That is, it estimates the success of
such appeals in regard to the promotion of fuller and more harmonious
life. Flaubert wrote:

"Le génie n'est pas rare maintenant, mais ce que personne n'a plus et ce
qu'il faut tacher d'avoir, c'est la conscience."

("Genius is not rare nowadays, but conscience is what nobody has and
what one should strive after.")

To-day I am thinking of a painter. Painting is an art addressed
primarily to the eye, and not to the intelligence, not to the
imagination, save as these may be reached through the eye--that most
delicate organ of infinite susceptibility, which teaches us the meaning
of the word light--a word so often uttered with stress of ecstasy, of
longing, of despair, and of every other shade of emotion, that the sound
of it must soon be almost as powerful with the young heart, almost as
immediate in its effect, as the break of day itself, gladdening the eyes
and glorifying the earth. And how often is this joy received through the
eye entrusted back to it for expression? For the eye can speak with
varieties, delicacies, and subtle shades of motion far beyond the
attainment of any other organ. "This art of painting is made for the
eyes, for sight is the noblest sense of man,"[4] says Dürer; and again:

"It is ordained that never shall any man be able, out of his own
thoughts, to make a beautiful figure, unless, by much study, he hath
well stored his mind. That then is no longer to be called his own; it is
art acquired and learnt, which soweth, waxeth, and beareth fruit after
its kind. Thence the gathered secret treasure of the heart is manifested
openly in the work, and the new creature which a man createth in his
heart, appeareth in the form of a thing."[5]

Yes, indeed, the function of art is far from being confined to telling
us what we see, whatever some may pretend, or however naturally any
small nature may desire to continue, teach, or regulate great ones. All
so-called scientific methods of creating or criticising works of art are
inadequate, because the only truly scientific statements that can be
made about these inquiries are that nothing is certain--that no method
ensures success, and that no really important quality can be defined;
for what man can say why one cloud is more beautiful than another in the
same sky, any more than he can explain why, of two men equally absorbed
in doing their duty, one impresses him as being more holy than the
other? The degrees essential to both kinds of judgment escape all
definition; only the imagination can at times bring them home to us,
only the refined taste or chastened conscience, as the case may be,
witnesses with our spirit that its judgment is just, and bids us
recognise a master in him who delivers it. As the expression on a face
speaks to a delicate sense, often communicating more, other, and better
than can be seen, so the proportion, harmony, rhythm of a painting may
beget moods and joys that require the full resources of a well-stored
mind and disciplined character in order that they may be fully
relished--in brief, demand that maturity of reason which is the mark of
victorious man.

Such being my conception, it will easily be perceived how anxious I must
be to truly discern and express the relation between such objects as
works of art by common consent so highly honoured, and at the same time
so active in their effect upon the most exquisitely endowed of mankind.
Especially since to-day caprice, humour and temperament are, by the
majority of writers on art, acclaimed for the radical characteristic of
the human creative faculty, instead of its perversion and disease; and
it is thought that to be whimsical, moody, or self-indulgent best fits a
man both to create and appraise works of art, whereas to become so
really is the only way in which a man capable of such high tasks can
with certainty ruin and degrade his faculties. Precious, surpassingly
precious indeed, must every manifestation of such faculty before its
final extinction remain, since the race produces comparatively few
endowed after this kind.

Perhaps a sufficient illustration of this prevalent fallacy may be drawn
from Mr. Whistler's "Ten O'Clock," where he speaks of art:

"A whimsical goddess, and a capricious, her strong sense of joy
tolerates no dulness, and, live we never so spotlessly, still may she
turn her back upon us."

"As from time immemorial, she has done upon the Swiss in their

Here is no proof of caprice, save on the witty writer's part; for men
who fast are not saved from bad temper, nor have the kindly necessarily
discreet tongues. The Swiss may be brave and honest, and yet dull.
Virtue is her own reward, and art her own. Virtue rewards the saint, art
the artist; but men are rewarded for attention to morality by some
measure of joy in virtue, for attention to beauty by some measure of joy
in works of art. Between the artist and the Philistine is no great gulf
fixed, in the sense that the witty "master of the butterfly" pretends to
assume, but an infinite and gentle decline of persons representing every
possible blend of the virtues and faults of these two types. Again, an
artist is miscalled "master of art." "Where he is, there she appears,"
is airy impudence. "Where she wills to be, there she chooses a man to
serve her," would not only have been more gallant but more reasonable;
for that "The wind bloweth where it listeth, and thou hearest the sound
thereof, but canst not tell whence it cometh and whither it goeth: so is
every one that is born of the spirit," and that "many are called, few
chosen," are sayings as true of the influence which kindleth art as of
that which quickeneth to holiness. Art is not dignified by being called
whimsical--or capricious. What can a man explain? The intention, behind
the wind, behind the spirit, behind the creative instinct, is dark. But
man is true to his own most essential character when, if he cannot
refrain from prating of such mysteries, he qualifies them as hope would
have him, with the noblest of his virtues; not when he speaks of the
unknown, in whose hands his destiny so largely rests, slightingly, as of
a woman whom he has seduced because he despised her--calling her
capricious because she answered to his caprice, whimsical, because she
was as flighty as his error. It is not art's function to reward virtue.
But, caprices and whimseys being ascribed to a goddess, it will be
natural to expect them in her worshipper; and Mr. Whistler revealed the
limitations of his genius by whimseys and caprice. Though it was in
their relations to the world that this goddess and her devotee claimed
freedoms so far from perfect, yet this, their avowed characteristic
abroad, I think in some degree disturbed their domestic relations,
Though others have underlined the absurdity of this theory by applying
themselves to it with more faith and less sense, I have chosen to quote
from the "Ten O'Clock," because I admire it and accept most of the ideas
about art advanced therein. The artist who wrote it was able, in Dürer's
phrase, "to prove" what he wrote "with his hand." Most of those who have
elaborated what was an occasional unsoundness of his doctrine into
ridiculous religions are as unable to create as they are to think; there
is no need to record names which it is wisdom to forget. But it may be
well to point out that Mr. Whistler does not succeed in glorifying great
artists when he declares that beauty "to them was as much a matter of
certainty and triumph as is to the astronomer the verification of the
result, foreseen with the light granted to him alone." No, he only sets
up a false analogy; for the true parallel to the artist is the saint,
not the astronomer; both are convinced, neither understands. Art is no
more the reward of intelligence than of virtue. She permits no caprice
in her own realm. Loyalty is the only virtue she insists on, loyalty in
regard to her servant's experience of beauty; he may be immoral in every
other way and she not desert him; but let him turn Balaam and declare
beauty absent where he feels its presence--though in doing this he hopes
to advance virtue or knowledge, she needs no better than an ass to
rebuke him. Nothing effects more for anarchy than these notions that art
derives from individual caprice, or defends virtue, or demonstrates
knowledge; for they are all based on those flattering hopes of the
unsuccessful, that chance, rules both in life and art, or that it is
possible to serve two masters.

Doctrines often repeated gain easy credence; and, since art demands
leisure in order to be at all enjoyed, ideas about it, in so fatiguing a
life as ours has become, take men off their guard, when their habitual
caution is laid to sleep, and, by an over-easiness, they are inclined to
spoil both their sense of distinction and their children. Yes, they
consent to theatres that degrade them, because they distract and amuse;
and read journals that are smart and diverting at the expense of dignity
and truth--in the same way as they smile at the child whom reason bids
them reprove, and with the like tragic result; for they become incapable
of enjoying works of art, as the child is incapacitated for the best of
social intercourse. To prophesy smooth things to people in this
condition, and flatter their dulness, is to be no true friend; and so
the modern art-critic and journalist is often the insidious enemy of the
civilisation he contents.

Nothing strikes the foreigner coming to England more than our lack of
general ideas. Our art criticism is no exception; it, like our
literature and politics, is happy-go-lucky and delights in the pot-shot.
We often hear this attributed admiringly to "the sporting instinct." "If
God, in his own time, granteth me to write something further about
matters connected with painting, I will do so, in hope that this art may
not rest upon use and wont alone, but that in time it may be taught on
true and orderly principles, and may be understood to the praise of God
and the use and pleasure of all lovers of art."[6]

Our art is still worse off than our trade or our politics, for it does
not even rest upon use and wont, but is wholly in the air. Yet the
typical modern aesthete has learnt where to take cover, for, though
destitute of defence, he has not entirely lost the instinct for
self-preservation; and, when he finds the eye of reason upon him, he
immediately flies to the diversity of opinions. But Dürer follows him
even there with the perfect good faith of a man in earnest.

"Men deliberate and hold numberless differing opinions about beauty, and
they seek after it in many different ways, although ugliness is thereby
rather attained. Being then, as we are, in such a state of error, I know
not certainly what the ultimate measure of true beauty is, and cannot
describe it aright. But glad should I be to render such help as I can,
to the end that the gross deformities of our work might be and remain
pruned away and avoided, unless indeed any one prefers to bestow great
labour upon the production of deformities. We are brought back,
therefore, to the aforesaid judgment of men, which considereth one
figure beautiful at one time and another at another....

"Because now we cannot altogether attain unto perfection, shall we
therefore wholly cease from learning? By no means. Let us not take unto
ourselves thoughts fit for cattle. For evil and good lie before men,
wherefore it behoveth the rational man to choose the good."[7]

A man may see, if he will but watch, who is more finely touched and
gifted than himself. In all the various fields of human endeavour, on
such men he should try to form himself; for only thus can he enlarge his
nature, correct his opinions. Something he can learn from this man,
something from that, and it is rational to learn and be taught. Are we
to be cattle or gods? "Is it not written in your law, I said, 'Ye are
gods?'" Reason demands that each man form himself on the pattern of a
god, and God is an empty name if reason be not the will of God. Then he
whom reason hath brought up may properly be called a son of God, a son
of man, a child of light. But it is easier to bob to such phrases than
to understand them. However, their mechanical repetition does not
prevent their having meant something once, does not prevent their
meaning being their true value. It is time we understood our art, just
as it is time we understood our religion. Docility, as I have pointed
out elsewhere, is one of the marks of genius. Dürer's spirit is the
spirit of the great artist who will learn even from "dull men of little

"Let none be ashamed to learn, for a good work requireth good counsel.
Nevertheless, whosoever taketh counsel in the arts, let him take it from
one thoroughly versed in those matters, who can prove what he saith with
his hand. Howbeit any one may give thee counsel; and when thou hast done
a work pleasing to thyself, it is good for thee to show it to dull men
of little judgment that they may give their opinion of it. As a rule
they pick out the most faulty points, whilst they entirely pass over the
good. If thou findest something they say true, thou mayst thus better
thy work."[8]

Those who are thoroughly versed in art are the great artists; we have
guides then, and we have a way--the path they have trodden--and we have
company, the gifted and docile men of to-day whom we see to be improving
themselves; and, in so far as we are reasonable, a sense of proportion
is ours, which we may improve; and it will help us to catch up better
and yet better company until we enjoy the intimacy of the noblest, and
know as we are known. Then: "May we not consider it a sign of sanity
when we regard the human spirit as ... a poet, and art as a half written
poem? Shall we not have a sorry disappointment if its conclusion is
merely novel, and not the fulfilment and vindication of those great
things gone before?"[9] For my own part, those appear to me the grandest
characters who, on finding that there is no other purchase for effort
but only hope, and that they can never cease from hope but by ceasing to
live, clear their minds of all idle acquiescence in what could never be
hoped, and concentrate their energies on conquering whatever in their
own nature, and in the world about them, militates against their most
essential character--reason, which seeks always to give a higher
value to life.


When we speak of the sense of proportion displayed in the design of a
building, many will think that the word is used in quite a different
sense, and one totally unrelated to those which I have been discussing.
But no; life and art are parallel and correspond throughout; ethics are
the Esthetics of life, religion the art of living. Taste and conscience
only differ in their provinces, not in their procedure. Both are based
on instinctive preferences; the canon of either is merely so many of
those preferences as, by their constant recurrence to individuals gifted
with the power of drawing others after them, are widely accepted.

The preference of serenity to melancholy, of light to darkness, are
among the most firmly established in the canon, that is all. The sense
of proportion within a design is employed to stimulate and delight the
eye. Ordinary people may fear there is some abstruse science about this.
Not at all; it is as simple as relishing milk and honey, and its
development an exact parallel to the training of the palate to
distinguish the flavours of teas, coffees and wines. "Taste and see" is
the whole business. There are many people who have no hesitation in
picking out what to their eye is the wainscot panel with the richest
grain: they see it at once. So with etchings; if people would only
forget that they are works of art, forget all the false or
ill-understood standards which they have been led to suppose applicable,
and look at them as they might at agate stones; or choose out the
richest in effect: the most suitable for a gay room, or a hall, or a
library, as though they were patterned stuffs for curtains; they would
come a thousand times nearer a right appreciation of Dürer's success
than by making a pot-shot to lasso the masterpiece with the tangle of
literary rubbish which is known as art criticism.

The harmonies and contrasts of juxtaposed colours or textures are
affected by quantity, and a sense of proportion decides what quantities
best produce this effect and what that. The correctness or amount of
information to be conveyed in the delineation of some object, in
relation to the mood which the artist has chosen shall dominate his
work, is determined by his sense of proportion. He may distort an object
to any extent or leave it as vague as the shadow on a wall in diffused
light, or he may make it precise and particular as ever Jan Van Eyck
did; so only that its distortion or elaboration is so proportioned to
the other objects and intentions of his work as to promote its success
in the eyes of the beholder.

There are no fallacies greater than the prevalent ones conveyed by the
expressions "out of drawing" or "untrue to nature." There is no such
thing as correct drawing or an outside standard of truth for works
of art.

"The conception of every work of art carries within it its own rule and
method, which must be found out before it can be achieved." "Chaque
oeuvre à faire a sa poétique en soi, qu'il faut trouver," said Flaubert.
Truth in a work of art is sincerity. That a man says what he really
means--shows us what he really thinks to be beautiful--is all that
reason bids us ask for. No science or painstaking can make up for his
not doing this. No lack of skill or observation can entirely frustrate
his communicating his intention to kindred natures if he is utterly
sincere. An infant communicates its joy. It is probable that the
inexpressible is never felt. Stammering becomes more eloquent than
oratory, a child's impulsiveness wiser than circumlocutory experience.
When a single intention absorbs the whole nature, communication is
direct and immediate, and makes impotence itself a means of
effectiveness. So the naïveties of early art put to shame the
purposeless parade of prodigious skill. Wherever there is communication
there is art; but there are evil communications and there is vicious
art, though, perhaps, great sincerity is incompatible with either. For
an artist to be deterred by other people's demands means that he is not
artist enough; it is what his reason teaches him to demand of himself
that matters, though, doubtless, the good desire the approval of
kindred natures.

A work of art addresses the eye by means of chosen proportions; it may
present any number of facts as exactly as may be, but if it offend the
eye it is a mere misapplication of industry, or the illustration of a
scientific treatise out of place; and those that choose ribbons well are
better artists than the man that made it. Or again it may overflow with
poetical thought and suggestion, or have the stuff to make a first-rate
story in it; but, if it offend the eye, it is merely a misapplication of
imagination, invention or learning, and the girl who puts a charming
nosegay together is a better artist than he who painted it. On the other
hand, though it have no more significance than a glass of wine and a
loaf of bread, if the eye is rejoiced by gazing on the paint that
expresses them, it is a work of art and a fine achievement. Still, it
may be as fanciful as a fairy-tale, or as loaded with import as the
Crucifixion; and, if it stimulates the eye to take delight in its
surfaces over and above mere curiosity, it is a work of art, and great
in proportion as the significance of what it conveys is brought home to
us by the very quality of the stimulus that is created in return for our
gaze. For painting is the result of a power to speak beautifully with
paint, as poetry is of a power to express beautifully by means of words
either simple things or those which demand the effort of a welltrained
mind in order to be received and comprehended. The mistake made by
impressionists, luminarists, and other modern artists, is that a true
statement of how things appear to them will suffice; it will not, unless
things appear beautiful to them, and they render them beautifully. It
will not, because science is not art, because knowledge is a different
thing from beauty. A true statement may be repulsive and degrading;
whereas an affirmation of beauty, whether it be true or fancied, is
always moving, and if delivered with corresponding grace is
inspiring--is a work of art and "a joy for ever." For reason demands
that all the eye sees shall be beautiful, and give such pleasure as best
consists with the universe becoming what reason demands that it shall
become. This demand of reason is perfectly arbitrary? Yes, but it is
also inevitable, necessitated by the nature of the human character. It
is equally arbitrary and equally inevitable that man must, where science
is called for, in the long run prefer a true statement to a lie. From
art reason demands beautiful objects, from science true statements: such
is human nature; for the possession of this reason that judges and
condemns the universe, and demands and attempts to create something
better, is that which differentiates human life from all other known
forces--is that by which men may be more than conquerors, may make peace
with the universe; for

  "A peace is of the nature of a conquest;
   For then both parties nobly are subdued
   And neither party loser."

Of such a nature is the only peace that the soul can make with the
body--that man can make with nature--that habit can make with
instinct--that art can make with impulse. In order to establish such a
peace the imagination must train reason to see a friend in her enemy,
the physical order. For, as Reynolds says of the complete artist:

"He will pick up from dunghills, what, by a nice chemistry, passing
through his own mind, shall be converted into pure gold, and under the
rudeness of Gothic essays, he will find original, rational, and even
sublime inventions."[10]

It is not too much to say that the nature both of the artist and of the
dunghills is "subdued" by such a process, and yet neither is a "loser."
Goethe profoundly remarked that the highest development of the soul was
reached through worship first of that which was above, then of that
which was beneath it. This great critic also said, "Only with difficulty
do we spell out from that which nature presents to us, the _DESIRED_
word, the congenial. Men find what the artist brings intelligible and to
their taste, stimulating and alluring, genial and friendly, spiritually
nourishing, formative and elevating. Thus the artist, grateful to the
nature that made him, weaves a second nature--but a conscious, a fuller,
a more perfectly human nature."

[Illustration: Water-colour drawing of a Hare]


[Footnote 1: Swift, "Contests and Dissensions in Athens and Rome."]

[Footnote 2: It may be urged that diversities of opinion exist as to
what good is. The convenience of the words "good" and "evil" corresponds
to a need created by a common experience in the same way as the
convenience of the words "light" and "darkness" does. A child might
consider that a diamond generated light in the same way as a candle
does. He would be mistaken, but this would not affect the correctness of
his application of the word "light" to his experience; if he confused
light with darkness he must immediately become unintelligible. Good and
light are perceived and named--no one can say more of them; the effects
of both may be described with more or less accuracy. To say that light
is a mode of motion does not define it; we ask at once, What mode? And
the only answer is, that which produces the effect of light. A man born
blind, though he knew what was meant by motion, could never deduce from
this knowledge a conception of light.]

[Footnote 3: The Monthly Review, October 1902, "Rodin."]

[Footnote 4: "Literary Remains of Albrecht Dürer," p. 177.]

[Footnote 5: Ibid. p. 247.]

[Footnote 6: "Literary Remains of Albrecht Dürer," p. 252.]

[Footnote 7: "Literary Remains of Albrecht Dürer," pp, 244 and 245.]

[Footnote 8: "Literary Remains of Albrecht Dürer," p. 180.]

[Footnote 9: The Monthly Review, April 1901, "In Defence of Reynolds."]

[Footnote 10: Sixth Discourse.]




There are some artists of whom one would naturally write in a lyrical
strain, with praise of the flesh, and those things which add to its
beauty, freshness, and mystery--fair scenes of mountain, woodland, or
sea-shore; blue sky, white cloud and sunlight, or the deep and starry
night; youth and health, strength and fertility, frankness and freedom.
And, in such a strain, one would insist that the fondness and
intoxication which these things quicken was natural, wise, and lovely.
But, quite as naturally, when one has to speak of Dürer, the mind
becomes filled with the exhilaration and the staidness that the desire
to know and the desire to act rightly beget; with the dignity of
conscious comprehension, the serenity of accomplished duty with all the
strenuousness and ardour of which the soul is capable; with science
and religion.

It is natural to refer often to the towering eminence of these virtues
in Michael Angelo; both he and Dürer were not only great artists, and
active and powerful minds, but men imbued with, and conservative of,
piety. And it seems to me, if we are to appreciate and sympathise deeply
with such men, we must try to understand the religion they believed in;
to estimate, not only what its value was supposed to be in those days,
but what value it still has for us. Surely what they prized so highly
must have had real and lasting worth? Surely it can only be the relation
of that value to common speech and common thought which has changed, not
its relation to man's most essential nature? Therefore I will first try
to arrive at a general notion of the real worth of their ideas,--that
is, the worth that is equally great from their point of view and ours.

The whole of that period, the period of the so belauded Renascence, had
within it (or so it seems to me) an incurable insufficiency, which
troubles the affections of those who praise or condemn it; so that they
show themselves more passionate than those who praise or condemn the art
and life of ancient Greece. This insufficiency I believe to have been
due to the fact that Christian ideas were more firmly rooted in, than
they were understood by, the society of those days. And to-day I think
the same cause continues to propagate a like insufficiency, a like lack
of correspondence between effort and aim. Certain ideas found in the
reported sayings of Jesus have so fastened upon the European intellect
that they seem well-nigh inseparable from it. We are told that the
effort of the Greek, of Aristotle, was to "submit to the empire of
fact." The effort of the Jew was very similar; for the prophets, what
happened was the will of God, what will happen is what God intends. Now
it is noteworthy that Aristotle did not wish to submit to ignorance,
though it and the causes which produce it and preserve it in human minds
are among the most horrible and tremendous of facts; and it is the
imperishable glory of the prophets, that, whatever the priest the king,
the Sadducee or Pharisee might do, _they_ could not rest in or abide the
idea that God's will was ever evil; no inconsistency was too glaring to
check their indignation at Eastern fatalism which quietly supposed that
as things went wrong it was their nature to do so;--vanity, vanity, all
is vanity!--or that if men did wrong and prospered, it was God's doing,
and showed that they had pleased Him with sacrifices and performances.


'Wherever poetry, imagination, or art had been busy, there had appeared,
both in Judea and Greece, some degree of rebellion against the empire of
fact.. When Jesus said: "The kingdom of heaven is within you," he
recognised that the human reason was the antagonist of all other known
forces, and he declared war on the god of this world and prophesied the
downfall of--the empire of the apparent fact;--not with fume and fret,
not with rant and rage, as poets and seers had done, but mildly
affirming that with the soul what is best is strongest, has in the long
run most influence; that there is one fact in the essential nature of
man which, antagonist to the influence of all other facts, wields an
influence destined to conquer or absorb all other influences. He said:
"My Father which is in heaven, the master influence within me, has
declared that I shall never find rest to my soul until I prefer His
kingdom, the conception of my heart, to the kingdoms of earth and the
glory of the earth." 'We have seen that Dürer describes the miracle; the
work of art, thus:

"The secret treasure which a man conceived in his heart shall appear as
a thing" (see page 10).

And we know that he prized this, the master thing, the conception of the
heart, above everything else.

Much learning is not evil to a man, though some be stiffly set against
it, saying that art puffeth up. Were that so, then were none prouder
than God who hath formed all arts, but that cannot be, for God is
perfect in goodness. The more, therefore, a man learneth, so much the
better doth he become, and so much the more love doth he win for the
arts and for things exalted.

The learning Dürer chiefly intends is not book-learning or critical
lore, but knowledge how to make, by which man becomes a creator in
imitation of God; for this is of necessity the most perfect knowledge,
rivalling the sureness of intuition and instinct.


"Heaven and earth shall pass away, but my words shall not pass away."
Every one knows how anxious great artists become for the preservation of
their works, how highly they value permanence in the materials employed,
and immunity from the more obvious chances of destruction in the
positions they are to occupy. Michael Angelo is said to have painted
cracks on the Sistina ceiling to force the architect to strengthen the
roof. When Jesus made the assertion that his teaching would outlast the
influence of the visible world of nature and the societies of men--the
kingdoms of earth and the glory of the earth--he did no more than every
victorious soul strives to effect, and to feel assured that it has in
some large degree effected; the difference between him and them is one
of degree. It may be objected that different hearts harbour and cherish
contradictory conceptions. Doubtless; but does the desire to win the
co-operation and approval of other men consist with the higher
developments of human faculties? Is it, perhaps, essential to them? If
so, in so far as every man increases in vitality and the employment of
his powers, he will be forced to reverence and desire the solidarity of
the race, and consequently to relinquish or neglect whatever in his own
ideal militates against such solidarity. And this will be the case
whether he judge such eccentric elements to be nobler or less noble than
the qualities which are fostered in him by the co-operation of his
fellows. Jesus, at any rate, affirmed that the law of the kingdom within
a man's soul was: "Love thy neighbour as thyself"; and that obedience to
it would work in every man like leaven, which is lost sight of in the
lump of dough, and seems to add nothing to it, yet transforms the whole
in raising up the loaf; or as the corn of wheat which is buried in the
glebe like a dead body, yet brings forth the blade, and nourishes a
new life.

So he that should follow Jesus by obeying the laws of the kingdom, by
loving God (the begetter or fountainhead of a man's most essential
conception of what is right and good) and his neighbour, was assured by
his mild and gracious Master that he would inherit, by way of a return
for the sacrifices which such obedience would entail, a new and better
life. (Follow me, I laid down my life in order that I might take it
again. He that findeth his life shall lose it; and he that loseth his
life _for_ my _sake_--as I did, in imitation of me--shall find it.) For
in order to make this very difficult obedience possible, it was to be
turned into a labour of love done for the Master's sake. As Goethe said:

  "Against the superiority of another, there is no remedy
  but love."

Is it not true that the superiority of another man humiliates, crushes
and degrades us in our own eyes, if we envy it or hate it instead of
loving it? while by loving it we make it in a sense ours, and can
rejoice in it. So Jesus affirmed that he had made the superiority of the
ideal his; so that he was in it, and it was in him, so that men who
could no longer fix their attention on it in their own souls might love
it in him. He was their master-conception, their true ideal, acting
before them, captivating the attention of their senses and emotions.
This is what a man of our times, possessed of rare receptivity and great
range of comprehension, considered to be the pith of Jesus' teaching.
Matthew Arnold gave much time and labour to trying to persuade men that
this was what the religion they professed, or which was professed around
them, most essentially meant. And he reminded us that the adequacy of
such ideas for governing man's life depended not on the authority of a
book or writings by eye-witnesses with or without intelligence, but on
whether they were true in experience. He quoted Goethe's test for every
idea about life, "But is it true, is it true for me, now?" "Taste and
see," as the prophets put it; or as Jesus said, "Follow me." For an
ideal must be followed, as a man woos a woman; the pursuit may have to
be dropped, in order to be more surely recovered; an ideal must be
humoured, not seized at once as a man seizes command over a machine.
This _secret of success was_ was only to be won by the development of a
temper, a spirit of docility. To love it in an example was the best,
perhaps the only way of gaining possession of it.


As we are placed, what hope can we have but to learn? and what is there
from which we might not learn? An artist is taught by the materials he
uses more essentially than by the objects he contemplates; for these
teach him "how," and perfect him in creating, those only teach him
"what," and suggest forms to be created. But for men in general the
"what" is more important than the "how"; and only very powerful art can
exhilarate and refine them by means of subjects which they dislike
or avoid.

Every seer of beauty is not a creator of beautiful things; and in art
the "how" is so much more essential than the "what," that artists create
unworthy or degrading objects beautifully, so that we admire their art
as much as we loathe its employment; in nature, too, such objects are
met with, created by the god of this world. A good man, too, may create
in a repulsive manner objects whose every association is ennobling or

"The kingdom of heaven is within you," but hell is also within.

  "Hell hath no limits, nor is circumscribed
  In one self place; for where we are is hell
  And where hell is, must we for ever be:
  And, to conclude, when all the world dissolves,
  And every creature shall be purified,
  All places shall be hell that are not heaven,"

as Marlowe makes his Mephistophilis say: and the best art is the most
perfect expression of that which is within, of heaven or of hell.
Goethe said:

"In the Greeks, whose poetry and rhetoric was simple and positive, we
encounter expressions of approval more often than of disapproval. With
the Romans, on the other hand, the contrary holds good; and the more
corrupted poetry and rhetoric become, the more will censure grow and
praise diminish."

I have sometimes thought that the difference between classic and more or
less decadent art lies in the fact that by the one things are
appreciated for what they most essentially are--a young man, a swift
horse, a chaste wife, &c.--by the other for some more or less peculiar
or accidental relation that they hold to the creator. Such writers
lament that the young are not old, the old not young, prostitutes not
pure, that maidens are cold and modest or matrons portly. They complain
of having suffered from things being cross, or they take malicious
pleasure in pointing that crossness out; whereas classical art always
rebounds from the perception that things are evil to the assertion of
what ought to be or shall be. It triumphs over the Prince of Darkness,
and covers a multitude of sins, as dew or hoar frost cover and make
beautiful a dunghill. Dunghills exist; but he who makes of Macbeth's or
Clytemnestra's crimes an elevating or exhilarating spectacle triumphs
over the god of this world, as Jesus did when he made the most
ignominious death the symbol, of his victory and glory. Little wonder
that Albert Dürer, and Michael Angelo found such deep satisfaction in
Him as the object of their worship--his method of docility was
next-of-kin to that of their art. Respect and solicitude create the
soul, and these two pre-eminently docile passions preside over the
soul's creation, whether it be a society, a life, or a thing of beauty.


  Here, when art was still religion, with a simple, reverent heart,
  Lived and laboured Albrecht Dürer, the Evangelist of Art.

These jingling lines would scarcely merit consideration but that they
express a common notion which has its part of truth as well as of error.
Let us examine the first assertion (that art has been religion.)
Baudelaire, in his _Curiosités Esthétiques_ says: _La première affaire
d'un artiste est de substituer l'homme à la nature et de protester
contre elle_. ("The first thing for an artist is to substitute man for
nature and to protest against her.") The beginners and the smatterers
are always "students of nature," and suppose that to be so will suffice;
but when the understanding and imagination gain width and elasticity,
life is more and more understood as a long struggle to overcome or
humanise nature by that which most essentially distinguishes man from
other animals and inanimate nature. Religion should be the drill and
exercise of the human faculties to fit them and maintain them in
readiness for this struggle; the work of art should be the assertion of
victory. A life worthy of remembrance is a work of art, a life worthy of
universal remembrance is a masterpiece: only the materials employed
differentiate it from any other work of art. The life of Jesus is
considered as such a masterpiece. Thus we can say that if art has never
been religion, religion has always been and ever will be an art.

Now let us examine the second assertion that Dürer was an evangelist.
What kind of character do we mean to praise when we say a man is an
evangelist? Two only of the four evangelists can be said to reveal any
ascertainable personality, and only St. John is sufficiently outlined to
stand as a type; but I do not think we mean to imply a resemblance to
St. John. The bringer of good news, the evangelist par excellence, was
Jesus. He it was who made it evident that the sons of men have power to
forgive sins. Victory over evil possible--this was the good news. No
doubt every sincere Christian is supposed to be a more or less
successful imitator of Jesus; and as such, Dürer may rightly be called
an evangelist. But more than this is I think, implied in the use of the
word; an evangelist is, for us above all a bringer of good news in
something of the same manner as Jesus brought it, by living among
sinners for those sinners' sake, among paupers for those paupers' sake;
to see a man sweet, radiant, and victorious under these circumstances,
is to see an evangelist. Goethe's final claim is that, "after all, there
are honest people up and down the world who have got light from my
books; and whoever reads them, and gives himself the trouble to
understand me, will acknowledge that he has acquired thence a certain
inward freedom"; and for this reason I have been tempted to call him the
evangelist of the modern world. But it is best to use the word as I
believe it is most correctly employed, and not to yield to the
temptation (for tempting it is) to call men like Dürer and Goethe
evangelists. They are teachers who charm as well as inform us, as Jesus
was; but they are not evangelists in the sense that he was, for they did
not deal directly with human life where it is forced most against its
distinctive desire for increase in nobility, or is most obviously
degraded by having betrayed it.'[11]


I have often heard it objected that Jesus is too feminine an ideal, too
much based on renunciation and the effort to make the best of failure.
No doubt that as women are, by the necessity of their function, more
liable to the ship-wreck of their hopes, the bankruptcy of their powers,
they have been drawn to cling to this hope of salvation in greater
numbers, and with more fervour; so that the most general idea of Jesus
may be a feminine one. It does not follow that this is the most correct
or the best: every object, every person will appear differently to
different natures. And it still remains true that there have been a
great many men of very various types who have drawn strength and beauty
from the contemplation and reverence of Jesus. That this ideal is too
much based on making the best of failure is an objection that makes very
little impression on me, for I think I perceive that failure is one of
the most constant and widespread conditions of the universe, and even
more certainly of human life.


It remains now to see in what degree these ideas were felt or made
themselves felt through the Romanism and Lutheranism of the Renascence
period. Perhaps we English shall best recognise the presence of these
ideas, the working of this leaven--this docility, the necessary midwife
of 'genius, who transforms the difficult tasks which the human reason
sets herself into labours of love--in an Englishman; so my first example
shall be taken from Erasmus' portrait of Dean Colet.

It was then that my acquaintance with him began, he being then thirty, I
two or three months his junior. He had no theological degree, but the
whole University, doctors and all, went to hear him. Henry VII took note
of him, and made him Dean of St. Paul's. His first step was to restore
discipline in the Chapter, which had all gone to wreck. He preached
every saint's day to great crowds. He cut down household expenses, and
abolished suppers and evening parties. At dinner a boy reads a chapter
from Scripture; Colet takes a passage from it and discourses to the
universal delight. Conversation is his chief pleasure, and he will keep
it up till midnight if he finds a companion. Me he has often taken with
him on his walks, and talks all the time of Christ. He hates coarse
language, furniture, dress, food, books, all clean and tidy, but
scrupulously plain; and he wears grey woollen when priests generally go
in purple. With the large fortune which he inherited from his father, he
founded and endowed a school at St. Paul's entirely at his own cost--
masters, houses, salaries, everything.

He is a man of genuine piety. He was not born with it. He was naturally
hot, impetuous and resentful--indolent, fond of pleasure and of women's
society--disposed to make a joke of everything. He told me that he had
fought against his faults with study, fasting and prayer, and thus his
whole life was in fact unpolluted with the world's defilements. His
money he gave all to pious uses, worked incessantly, talked always on
serious subjects, to conquer his disposition to levity; not but what you
could see traces of the old Adam when wit was flying at feast or
festival. He avoided large parties for this reason. He dined on a single
dish, with a draught or two of light ale. He liked good wine, but
abstained on principle. I never knew a man of sunnier nature. No one
ever more enjoyed cultivated society; but here, too, he denied himself,
and was always thinking of the life to come.

His opinions were peculiar, and he was reserved in expressing them for
fear of exciting suspicion. He knew how unfairly men judge each other,
how credulous they are of evil, how much easier it is for a lying tongue
to stain a reputation than for a friend to clear it. But among his
friends he spoke his mind freely.

He admitted privately that many things were generally taught which he
did not believe, but he would not create a scandal by blurting out his
objections. No book could be so heretical but he would read it, and read
it carefully. He learnt more from such books than he learnt from
dogmatism and interested orthodoxy.[12]

Some may wonder what Colet could have found to say about Christ which
could not only interest but delight the young and witty Erasmus; and may
judge that at any rate to-day such a subject is sufficiently fly-blown.
The proper reflection to make is, "A rose by any other name would smell
as sweet."

Whether we say Christ or Perfection does not matter, it is what we mean
which is either enthralling or dull, fresh or fusty; "there's nothing
in a name."

"When Colet speaks I might be listening to Plato," says Erasmus in
another place, at a time when he was still younger and had just come
from what had been a gay and perhaps in some measure a dissolute life in
Paris: not that it is possible to imagine Erasmus as at any time
committing great excesses, or deeply sinning against the sense of
proportion and measure.

Success is the only criterion, as in art, so in religion: the man that
plucks out his eye and casts it from him, and remains the dull, greedy,
distressful soul he was before, is a damned fool; but the man who does
the same and becomes such that his younger friends report of him, "I
never knew a sunnier nature," is an artist in life, a great artist in
the sense that Christ is supposed to have been a great master; one who
draws men to him, as bees are drawn to flowers. Colet drew the young
Henry the Eighth as well as Erasmus. "The King said: 'Let every man
choose his own doctor. Dean Colet shall be mine!'" Though no doubt
charlatans have often fascinated young scholars and monarchs, yet it is
peculiarly impossible to think of Colet as a charlatan.


Next let us take a sonnet and a sentence from Michael Angelo:

  Yes! hope may with my strong desire keep pace,
  And I be undeluded, unbetrayed;
  For if of our affections none finds grace
  In sight of heaven, then, wherefore hath God made
  The world which we inhabit? Better plea
  Love cannot have than that in loving thee
  Glory to that eternal peace is paid,
  Who such divinity to thee imparts,
  As hallows and makes pure all gentle hearts.
  His hope is treacherous only whose love dies
  With beauty, which is varying every hour;
  But in chaste hearts, uninfluenced by the power
  Of outward change, there blooms a deathless flower,
  That breathes on earth the air of paradise.[13]

It is very remarkable how strongly the conviction of permanence, and the
preference for the inward conception over external beauty are expressed
in this fine sonnet; and also that the reason given for accepting the
discipline of love is that experience shows how it "hallows and makes
pure all gentle hearts." In such a love poem--the object of which might
very well have been Jesus--I seem to find more of the spirit of his
religion, whereby he binds his disciples to the Father that ruled within
him, till they too feel the bond of parentage as deeply as himself and
become sons with him of his Father;--more of that binding power of Jesus
is for me expressed in this fine sonnet than in Luther's Catechism. The
religion that enables a great artist to write of love in this strain, is
the religion of docility, of the meek and lowly heart. For Michael
Angelo was not a man by nature of a meek and lowly heart, any more than
Colet was a man naturally saintly or than Luther was a man naturally
refined. But because Michael Angelo thus prefers the kingdom of heaven
to external beauty, one must not suppose that he, its arch high-priest,
despised it. Nobody had a more profound respect for the thing of beauty,
whether it was the creation of God or man. He said:

"Nothing makes the soul so pure, so religious, as the endeavour to
create something perfect; for God is perfection, and whoever strives for
perfection, strives for something that is God-like."

Now we can perceive how the same spirit worked in a great artist, not at
Nuremberg or London, but at Rome, the centre of the world, where a
Borgia could be Pope.


Erasmus, the typical humanist, the man who loved humanity so much that
he felt that his love for it might tempt him to fight against God,
travelled from the one world to the other; passed from the society of
cardinals and princes to the seclusion of burgher homes in London, or to
chat with Dürer at Antwerp. He belonged perhaps to neither world at
heart; but how greatly his love and veneration of the one exceeded his
admiration and sense of the practical utility of the other, a comparison
of his sketch of Colet with such a note as this from his New Testament
makes abundantly plain:

"I saw with my own eyes Pope Julius II. at Bologna, and afterwards at
Rome, marching at the head of a triumphal procession as if he were
Pompey or Cæsar. St. Peter subdued the world with faith, not with arms
or soldiers or military engines. St. Peter's successors would win as
many victories as St. Peter won if they had Peter's spirit."

But we must not forget that the book in which these notes appeared was
published with the approval of a Pope, and that he and others sought its
author for advice as to how to cope best with their more hot-headed
enemy Martin Luther. We must also remember that we are told that Colet
"was not very hard on priests and monks who only sinned with women. He
did not make light of impurity, but thought it less criminal than spite
and malice and envy and vanity and ignorance. The loose sort were at
least made human and modest by their very faults, and he regarded
avarice and arrogance as blacker sins in a priest than a hundred
concubines." This spirit was not that of the Reformation which came to
stop, yet it existed and was widespread at that time; it was I think the
spirit which either formed or sustained most of the great artists. At
any rate it both formed and sustained Albert Dürer. Yet the true nature
of these ideas, derived from Jesus, could not be understood even by
Colet, even by Erasmus. For them it was tradition which gave value and
assured truth to Christ's ideas, not the truth of those ideas which gave
value to the traditions and legends concerning him. The value of those
ideas was felt, sometimes nearer, sometimes further off; it was loved
and admired; their lives were apprehended by it, and spent in
illustrating and studying it, as were also those of Albert Dürer and
Michael Angelo. To understand the life and work of such men, we must
form some conception of the true nature and value of those ideas, as I
have striven to do in this chapter. Otherwise we shall merely admire and
love them, as they admired and loved Jesus; and it has now become a
point of honour with educated men not only to love and admire, but to
make the effort to understand. Even they desired to do this. And I think
we may rejoice that the present time gives us some advantage over those
days, at least in this respect.


And lastly, in order to bring us back to our main subject, let us quote
from a stray leaf of a lost MS. Book of Dürer's, which contains the
description of his father's death.

    ... desired. So the old wife helped him up, and the night-cap
    on his head had suddenly become wet with drops of sweat. Then
    he asked to drink, so she gave him a little Reinfell wine. He
    took a very little of it, and then desired to get into bed
    again and thanked her. And when he had got into bed he fell
    at once into his last agony. The old wife quickly kindled the
    candle for him and repeated to him S. Bernard's verses, and
    ere she had said the third he was gone. God be merciful to
    him! And the young maid, when she saw the change, ran quickly
    to my chamber and woke me, but before I came down he was
    gone. I saw the dead with great sorrow, because I had not
    been worthy to be with him at his end.

    And thus in the night before S. Matthew's eve my father
    passed away, in the year above mentioned (Sept. 20, 1502)
    --the merciful God help me also to a happy end--and he left
    my mother an afflicted widow behind him. He was ever wont to
    praise her highly to me, saying what a good wife she was,
    wherefore I intend never to forsake her. I pray you for God's
    sake, all ye my friends, when you read of the death of my
    father, to remember his soul with an "Our Father" and an "Ave
    Maria"; and also for your own sake, that we may so serve God
    as to attain a happy life and the blessing of a good end. For
    it is not possible for one who has lived well to depart ill
    from this world, for God is full of compassion. Through which
    may He grant us, after this pitiful life, the joy of
    everlasting salvation--in the name of the Father, the Son,
    and the Holy Ghost, at the beginning and at the end, one
    Eternal Governor. Amen.

The last sentences of this may seem to share in the character of the
vain repetitions of words with which professed believers are only too
apt to weary and disgust others. They are in any case commonplaces: the
image has taken the place of the object; the Father in heaven is not
considered so much as the paternal governor of the inner life as the
ruler of a future life and of this world. The use of such phrases is as
much idolatry as the worship of statue and picture, or as little, if the
words are repeated, as I think in this case they were, out of a feeling
of awe and reverence for preceding mental impressions and experiences,
and not because their repetition in itself was counted for
righteousness. Their use, if this was so, is no more to be found fault
with than the contemplation of pictures or statues of holy personages in
order to help the mind to attend to their ensample, or the reading of a
poem, to fill the mind with ennobling emotions. Idolatry is natural and
right in children and other simple souls among primitive peoples or
elsewhere. It is a stage in mental development. Lovers pass through the
idolatrous stage of their passion just as children cut their teeth. It
is a pity to see individuals or nations remain childish in this respect
just as much as in any other, or to see them return to it in their
decrepitude. But a temper, a spirit, an influence cannot easily be
apprehended apart from examples and images; and perhaps the clearest
reason is only the exercise of an infinitely elastic idolatry, which
with sprightly efficiency finds and worships good in everything, just as
the devout, in Dürer's youth, found sermons in stones, carved stones
representing saint, bishop, or Virgin. And Dürer all his life long
continued to produce pictures and engravings which were intended to
preach such sermons.

Goethe admirably remarks:

"_Superstition_ is the poetry of life; the poet therefore suffers no
harm from being _superstitious_." (Aberglaube.)

Superstition and idolatry are an expenditure of emotion of a kind and
degree which the true facts would not warrant; poetry when least
superstitious is a like exercise of the emotions in order to raise and
enhance them; superstition when most poetical unconsciously effects the
same thing.

This glimpse he gives of the way in which death visited his home, and
how the visitation impressed him, is coloured and glows with that temper
of docility which made Colet school himself so severely, and was the
source of Michael Angelo's so fervent outpourings. And all through the
accounts which remain of his life, we may trace the same spirit ever
anew setting him to school, and renewing his resolution to learn both
from his feelings and from his senses.


As I took a sentence from Michael Angelo, I will now take a sentence
from Dürer, one showing strongly that evangelical strain so
characteristic of him, born of his intuitive sense for human solidarity.
After an argument, which will be found on page 306, he concludes: "It is
right, therefore, for one man to teach another. He that doeth so
joyfully, upon him shall much be bestowed by God."[14] These last words,
like the last phrases of my former quotation from him, may stand perhaps
in the way of some, as nowadays they may easily sound glib or
irreverent. But are we less convinced that only tasks done joyfully, as
labours of love, deserve the reward of fuller and finer powers, and
obtain it? When Dürer thought of God, he did not only think of a
mythological personage resembling an old king; he thought of a mind, an
intention, "for God is perfect in goodness." Words so easily come to
obscure what they were meant to reveal; and if we think how the notion
of perfect goodness rules and sways such a man's mind, we shall not
wonder that he did not stumble at the omnipotency which revolts us,
cowed as we are by the presence of evil. The old gentleman dressed like
a king;--this was not the part of his ideas about God which occupied
Dürer's mind. He accepted it, but did not think about it: it filled what
would otherwise have been a blank in his mind and in the minds of those
about him. But he was constantly anxious about what he ought to do and
study in order to fulfil the best in himself, and about what ought to be
done by his town, his nation, and the civilisation that then was, in
order to turn man's nature and the world to an account answerable to the
beauty of their fairer aspects. God was the will that commanded that
"consummation devoutly to be wished." Obedience to His law revealed in
the Bible was the means by which this command could be carried out; and
to a man turning from the Church as it then existed to the newly
translated Bible texts, the commands of God as declared in those texts
seemed of necessity reason itself compared with the commands of the
Popes; were, in fact, infinitely more reasonable, infinitely more akin
to a good man's mind and will. Luther's revolt is for us now
characterised by those elements in it which proved inadequate--were
irrational; but then these were insignificant in comparison with the
light which his downright honesty shed on the monstrous and amazingly
irrational Church. This huge closed society of bigots and worldlings
which arrogated to itself all powers human and divine, and used them
according to the lusts and intemperance of an Alexander Borgia, a Julius
II., and a Leo X., was that farce perception of which made Rabelais
shake the world with laughter, and which roused such consuming
indignation in Luther and Calvin that they created the gloomy
puritanical asylums in which millions of Germans, English, and Americans
were shut up for two hundred years, as Matthew Arnold puts it. But Dürer
was not so immured: even Luther at heart neither was himself, nor
desired that others should be, prevented from enjoying the free use of
their intellectual powers. It was because he was less perspicacious than
Erasmus that he did not see that this was what he was inevitably doing
in his wrath and in his haste.


Erasmus was, perhaps, the man in Europe who at that time displayed most
docility; the man whom neither sickness, the desire for wealth and
honour, the hope to conquer, the lust to engage in disputes, nor the
adverse chances that held him half his life in debt and necessitous
straits, and kept him all his life long a vagrant, constantly upon the
road--the man in whom none of these things could weaken a marvellous
assiduity to learn and help others to learn. He it was who had most
kinship with Dürer among the artists then alive; for Dürer is very
eminent among them for this temper of docility. It is interesting to see
how he once turned to Erasmus in a devout meditation, written in the
journal he kept during his journey to the Netherlands. His voice comes
to us from an atmosphere charged with the electric influence of the
greatest Reformer, Martin Luther, who had just disappeared, no man knew
why or whither; though all men suspected foul play. In his daily life,
by sweetness of manner, by gentle dignity and modesty, Dürer showed his
religion, the admiration and love that bound his life, in a way that at
all times and in all places commands applause. The burning indignation
of the following passage may in times of spiritual peace or somnolence
appear over-wrought and uncouth. We must remember that all that Dürer
loved had been bound by his religion to the teaching and inspiration of
Jesus, and had become inseparable from it. All that he loved--learning,
clear and orderly thought, honesty, freedom to express the worship of
his heart without its being turned to a mockery by cynical monk, priest,
or prelate;--these things directly, and indirectly art itself, seemed to
him threatened by the corruption of the Papal power. We must remember
this; for we shall naturally feel, as Erasmus did, that the path of
martyrdom was really a short cut, which a wider view of the surrounding
country would have shown him to be likely to prove the longest way in
the end. Indeed the world is not altogether yet arrived where he thought
Erasmus could bring it in less than two years. And Luther himself
returned to the scene and was active, without any such result, a dozen
years and more.

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 a little old
man, 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 in no wise prevail against thee. And if here below thou wert to be
like thy master Christ, and sufferest infamy at the hands of the liars
of this time, and didst die a little 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
alone 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!!

"With Him shalt thou reign and judge with justice those that have dealt
unrighteously." This will seem to many a mere cry for revenge; and so
perhaps it was. Still it may have been, as it seems to me to have been,
uttered rather in the spirit of Moses' "Forgive their sin--and if not,
blot me, I pray Thee, out of Thy book"; or the "Heaven and earth shall
pass away, but my words shall not pass away" of Jesus. If the necessity
for victory was uppermost, the opportunity for revenge may scarcely have
been present to Dürer's mind.

It is now more generally recognised than in Luther's day that however
sweet vengeance may be, it is not admirable, either in God or man.

The total impression produced by Dürer's life and work must help each to
decide for himself which sense he considers most likely. The truth, as
in most questions of history, remains for ever in the balance, and
cannot be ascertained.


I have called docility the necessary midwife of Genius, for so it is;
and religion is a discipline that constrains us to learn. The religion
of Jesus constrains us to learn the most difficult things, binds us to
the most arduous tasks that the mind of man sets itself, as a lover is
bound by his affection to accomplish difficult feats for his mistress'
sake. Such tasks as Michael Angelo and Dürer set themselves require that
the lover's eagerness and zest shall not be exhausted; and to keep them
fresh and abundant, in spite of cross circumstances, a discipline of the
mind and will is required. This is what they found in the worship of
Jesus. The influence of this religious hopefulness and self-discipline
on the creative power prevents its being exhausted, perverted, or
embittered; and in order that it may effect this perfectly, that
influence must be abundant not only within the artist, as it was in
Michael Angelo and Dürer, but in the world about them.

This, then, is the value of religious influence to creative art: and
though we to-day necessarily regard the personages, localities, and
events of the creed as coming under the category of "things that are
not," we may still as fervently hope and expect that the things of that
category may "bring to nought the things that are," including the
superstitious reverence for the creed and its unprovable statements; for
has not the victory in human things often been with the things that were
not, but which were thus ardently desired and expected? To inquire which
of those things are best calculated to advance and nourish creative
power, and in what manner, should engage the artist's attention far more
than it has of late years. For what he loves, what he hopes, and what he
expects would seem, if we study past examples, to exercise as important
an influence on a man's creative power as his knowledge of, and respect
for, the materials and instruments which he controls do upon his
executive capacity.

The universe in which man finds himself may be evil, but not everything
it contains is so: then it must for ever remain our only wisdom to
labour to transform those parts which we judge to be evil into likeness
or conformity to those we judge to be good: and surely he who neglects
the forces of hope and adoration in that effort, neglects the better
half of his practical strength? The central proposition of Christianity,
that this end can only be attained by contemplation and imitation of an
example, is, we shall in another place (pp. [305-312]) find, maintained
as true in regard to art by Dürer, and by Reynolds, our greatest writer
on aesthetics. These great artists, so dissimilar in the outward aspects
of their creations, agree in considering that the only way of
advancement open to the aspirant is the attempt to form himself on the
example of others, by imitating them not slavishly or mechanically, but
in the same spirit in which they imitated their forerunners: even as the
Christian is bound to seek union with Christ in the same spirit or way
in which Jesus had achieved union with his Father--that is, by laying
down life to take it again, in meekness and lowliness of heart. Docility
is the sovran help to perfection for Dürer and Reynolds, and more or
less explicitly for all other great artists who have treated of these


[Footnote 11: Of course all that may have been meant by the phrase "the
Evangelist of Art" is that Dürer illustrated the narrative of the
Passion; but by this he is not distinguished from many others, and the
phrase is suggestive of far more.]

[Footnote 12: Froude's "Life of Erasmus," Lecture vi.]

[Footnote 13: Wordsworth's Translation,]

[Footnote 14: "Literary Remains of Albrecht Dürer," p. 176.]







Who was Dürer? He has told us himself very simply, and more fully than
men of his type generally do; for he was not, like Montaigne, one whose
chief study was himself. Yet, though he has done this, it is not easy
for us to fully understand him. It is perhaps impossible to place
oneself in the centre of that horizon which was of necessity his and
belonged to his day, a vast circle from which men could no more escape
than we from ours; this cage of iron ignorance in which every human soul
is trapped, and to widen and enlarge which every heroic soul lives and
dies. This cage appeared to his eyes very different from what it does to
ours; yet it has always been a cage, and is only lost sight of at times
when the light from within seems to flow forth, and with its radiant
sapphire heaven of buoyancy and desire to veil the eternal bars. It is
well to remind ourselves that ignorance was the most momentous, the most
cruel condition of his life, as of our own; and that the effort to
relieve himself of its pressure, either by the pursuit of knowledge, or
by giving spur and bridle to the imagination that it might course round
him dragging the great woof of illusion, and tent him in the ethereal
dream of the soul's desire, was the constant effort and resource of
his days.


At the age of fifty-three he took the pen and commenced:

In the year 1524, I, Albrecht Dürer the younger, have put together from
my father's papers the facts as to whence he was, how he came hither,
lived here, and drew to a happy end. God be gracious to him and
us! Amen.

Like his relatives, Albrecht Dürer the elder was born in the kingdom of
Hungary, in a little village named Eytas, situated not far from a little
town called Gyula, eight miles below Grosswardein; and his kindred made
their living from horses and cattle. My father's father was called Anton
Dürer; he came as a lad to a goldsmith in the said little town and
learnt the craft under him. He afterwards married a girl named
Elizabeth, who bare him a daughter, Katharina, and three sons. The first
son he named Albrecht; he was my dear father. He too became a goldsmith,
a pure and skilful man. The second son he called Ladislaus; he was a
saddler. His son is my cousin Niklas Dürer, called Niklas the Hungarian,
who is settled at Köln. He also is a goldsmith, and learnt the craft
here in Nürnberg with my father. The third son he called John. Him he
set to study, and he afterwards became a parson at Grosswardein, and
continued there thirty years.

So Albrecht Dürer, my dear father, came to Germany. He had been a long
time with the great artists in the Netherlands. At last he came hither
to Nürnberg in the year, as reckoned from the birth of Christ, 1455, on
S. Elogius' day (June 25). And on the same day Philip Pirkheimer had his
marriage feast at the Veste, and there was a great dance under the big
lime tree. For a long time after that my dear father, Albrecht Dürer,
served my grandfather, old Hieronymus Holper, till the year reckoned
1467 after the birth of Christ. My grandfather then gave him his
daughter, a pretty upright girl, fifteen years old, named Barbara; and
he was wedded to her eight days before S. Vitus (June 8). It may also be
mentioned that my grandmother, my mother's mother, was the daughter of
Oellinger of Weissenburg, and her name was Kunigunde.

And my dear father had by his marriage with my dear mother the following
children born--which I set down here word for word as he wrote it in
his book:

Here follow eighteen items, only one of which, the third, is of

3. Item, in the year 1471 after the birth of Christ, in the sixth hour
of the day, on S. Prudentia's day, a Tuesday in Rogation Week (May 21),
my wife bare me my second son. His godfather was Anton Koburger, and he
named him Albrecht after me, &c. &c.

All these, my brothers and sisters, my dear father's children, are now
dead, some in their childhood, others as they were growing up; only we
three brothers still live, so long as God will, namely: I, Albrecht, and
my brother Andreas and my brother Hans, the third of the name, my
father's children.

This Albrecht Dürer the elder passed his life in great toil and stern
hard labour, having nothing for his support save what he earned with his
hand for himself, his wife and his children, so that he had little
enough. He underwent moreover manifold afflictions, trials, and
adversities. But he won just praise from all who knew him, for he lived
an honourable, Christian life, was a man of patient spirit, mild and
peaceable to all, and very thankful towards God. For himself he had
little need of company and worldly pleasures; he was also of few words,
and was a God-fearing man.


We shall, I think, often do well, when considering the superb
ostentation of Dürer's workmanship, with its superabundance of curve and
flourish, its delight in its own ease and grace, to think of those young
men among his ancestors who made their living from horses on the
wind-swept plains of Hungary. The perfect control which it is the
delight of lads brought up and developing under such conditions to
obtain over the galloping steed, is similar to the control which it
gratified Dürer to perfect over the dashing stroke of pen or brush,
which, however swift and impulsive, is yet brought round and performs to
a nicety a predetermined evolution. And the way he puts a little
portrait of himself, finely dressed, into his most important pictures,
may also carry our thoughts away to the banks of the Danube where it
winds and straggles over the steppes, to picture some young
horse-breeder, whose costume and harness are his only wealth; who rides
out in the morning as the cock-bustard that, having preened himself,
paces before the hen birds on the plains that he can scour when his
wings, which are slow in the air, join with his strong legs to make
nothing of grassy leagues on leagues. And first, this life with its free
sweeping horizon, and the swallow-like curves of its gallops for the
sake of galloping, or those which the long lashes of its whips trace in
deploying, and which remind us of the lithe tendrils in which terminate
Dürer's ornamental flourishes; this life in which the eye is trained to
watch the lasso, as with well-calculated address it swirls out and drops
over the frighted head of an unbroken colt;--this life is first pent up
in a little goldsmith's shop, in a country even to-day famous for the
beauty and originality of its peasant jewelry: and here it is trained to
follow and answer the desire of the bright dark eyes of girls in
love;--in love, where love and the beauty that inspires it are the gifts
of nature most guarded and most honoured, from which are expected the
utmost that is conceived of delicacy in delight by a virile and healthy
race. "A pure and skilful man." Patient already has this life become,
for a jeweller can scarcely be made of impatient stuff; patient even
before the admixture of German blood when Albert the elder married his
Barbara Holper. The two eldest sons were made jewellers; but the third,
John, is set to study and becomes a parson, as if already learning and
piety stood next in the estimation of this life after thrift, skill and
the creation of ornament. And Germany boasts of this life beyond that of
any of her sons; but her blood was probably of small importance to the
efficiency that it attained to in the great Albert Dürer. The German
name of Dürer or Thürer, a door, is quite as likely to be the
translation, correct or otherwise, of some Hungarian name, as it is an
indication that the family had originally emigrated from Germany. In any
case, a large admixture by intermarriage of Slavonic blood would
correspond to the unique distinction among Germans, attained in the
dignity, sweetness and fineness which signalised Dürer. Of course, in
such matters no sane man looks for proof; but neither will he reject a
probable suggestion which may help us to understand the nature of an
exceptional man.


Dürer continues to speak of his childhood:

And my father took special pleasure in me, because he saw that I was
diligent to learn. So he sent me to school, and when I had learnt to
read and write he took me away from it, and taught me the goldsmith's
craft. But when I could work neatly, my liking drew me rather to
painting than to goldsmith's work, so I laid it before my father; but he
was not well pleased, regretting the time lost while I had been learning
to be a goldsmith. Still he let it be as I wished, and in 1486 (reckoned
from the birth of Christ) on S. Andrew's day (November 30) my father
bound me apprentice to Michael Wolgemut, to serve him three years long.
During that time God gave me diligence, so that I learnt well, but I had
much to suffer from his lads.

When I had finished my learning my father sent me off, and I stayed away
four years till he called me back again. As I had gone forth in the year
1490 after Easter (Easter Sunday was April 11), so now I came back again
in 1494 as it is reckoned after Whitsuntide (Whit Sunday was May 18).

Erasmus tells us that German disorders were "partly due to the natural
fierceness of the race, partly to the division into so many separate
States, and partly to the tendency of the people to serve as
mercenaries." That there were many swaggerers and bullies about, we
learn from Dürer's prints. In every crowd these gentlemen in leathern
tights, with other ostentatious additions to their costume, besides
poniards and daggers to emphasise the brutal male, strut straddle-legged
and self-assured; and of course raw lads and loutish prentices yielded
them the sincerest flattery. We can well understand that the model boy,
to whom "God had given diligence," with his long hair lovely as a
girl's, and his consciousness of being nearly always in the right, had
much to suffer from his fellow prentices. Besides, very likely, he
already consorted with Willibald Pirkheimer and his friends, who were
the aristocrats of the town. And though he may have been meek and
gentle, there must have appeared in everything he did and was an
assertion of superiority, all the more galling for its being difficult
to define and as ready to blush as the innocent truth herself.


It is much argued as to where Dürer went when his father "sent him off."
We have the direct statement of a contemporary, Christopher Scheurl,
that he visited Colmar and Basle; and what is well nigh as good, for a
visit to Venice. For Scheurl wrote in 1508: _Qui quum nuper in Italiam
rediset, tum a Venetis, tum a Bononiensibus artificibus, me saepe
interprete cansalutatus est alter Apelles._

"When he lately _returned_ to Italy, he was often greeted as a second
Apelles, by the craftsmen both of Venice and Bologna (I acting as their

Before we accept any of these statements it is well to remember how
easily quite intimate friends make mistakes as to where one has been and
when; even about journeys that in one's own mind either have been or
should have been turning-points in one's life. For they will attribute
to the past experiences which were never ours, or forget those which we
consider most unforgettable. No one who has paid attention to these
facts will consider that historians prove so much or so well as they
often fancy themselves to do. In the present case what is really
remarkable is, that none of these sojournings of the young artist in
foreign art centres seem to have produced such a change in his art as
can now be traced with assurance. At Colmar he saw the masterpieces and
the brothers of the "admirable Martin," as he always calls Schongauer.
At Basle there is still preserved a cut wood-block representing St.
Jerome, on the back of which is an authentic signature; there is besides
a series of uncut wood-blocks, the designs on which it is easy to
imagine to have been produced by the travelling journeyman that Dürer
then seemed to the printers and painters of the towns he passed through.
By those processes by which anything can be made of anything, much has
been done to give substantiality to the implied first visit to Venice.
There are drawings which were probably made there, representing ladies
resembling those in pictures by Carpaccio as to their garments, the
dressing of their hair, and the type of their faces. Of course it is not
impossible that such a lady or ladies may have visited Nuremberg, or
been seen by the young wanderer at Basle or elsewhere. And the
resemblance between a certain drawing in the Albertina and one of the
carved lions in red marble now on the Piazzetta de' Leoni does not count
for much, when we consider that there is nothing in the workmanship of
these heads to suggest that they were done after sculptured
originals;--the manes, &c., being represented by an easy penman's
convention, as they might have been whether the models were living or
merely imagined. Nor is there any good reason for dating the drawings of
sites in the Tyrol, supposed to have been sketched on the road, rather
this year than another. Lastly, the famous sentence in a letter written
from Venice during Dürer's authenticated visit there, in 1506, may be
construed in more than one sense. The passage is generally rather
curtailed when quoted.

He (Giovanni Bellini) is very old, but is still the best painter of them
all. The thing that pleased me so well eleven years ago, pleases me now
no more; if I had not seen it for myself, I should never have believed
any one who told me. You must know, too, that there are many better
painters here than Master Jacob (Jacopo de' Barbari) is abroad; yet
Anton Kolb would swear an oath that no better painter than Jacob lives.

If "the thing that pleased so well eleven years before" was a picture or
pictures by Master Jacob or by Andrea Mantegna, as is usually supposed,
the phrase, "If I had not seen it for myself I should never have
believed any one who told me" is extremely strange. It is not usual to
expect to change one's opinion of a work of art by hearsay, or to
imagine others, when they have not done so, predicting with assurance
that we shall change a decided opinion upon the merits of a work of art;
yet one of these two suppositions seems certainly to be implied. I do
not say that it is impossible to conceive of either, only that such
cursory reference to such conceptions is extremely strange. Again, if
work by Jacopo de' Barbari is referred to, it might very well have been
seen elsewhere than at Venice eleven years ago; and indeed the last
sentence in the passage might be taken to imply as much. To me at least
the truth appears to be that these hints, which we may well have
misunderstood, point to something which the imagination is only too
delighted to entertain. It is a charming dream--the young Dürer, just of
age, trudging from town to town, designing wood-blocks for a printer
here, questioning the brothers of the "admirable Martin" there, or again
painting a sign in yet another place, such as Holbein painted for the
schoolmaster at Basle; and at last arriving in Venice--Venice untouched
as yet by the conflicting ideals that were even then being brought to
birth anew: Mediaeval Venice, such as we see her in the pictures of
Gentile Bellini and Carpaccio. One painting of real importance in the
work of Dürer remains to us from this period: the greatest of modern
critics has described it and its effect on him in a way which would make
any second attempt impertinent.

I consider as invaluable Albrecht Dürer's portrait of himself painted in
1493, when he was in his twenty-second year. It is a bust half
life-size, showing the two hands and the forearms. Crimson cap with
short narrow strings, the throat bare to below the collar bone, an
embroidered shirt, the folds of the sleeves tied underneath with
peach-coloured ribbons, and a blue-grey, fur-edged cloak with yellow
laces, compose a dainty dress befitting a well-bred youth. In his hand
he significantly carries a blue _eryngo_, called in German "Mannstreu."
He has a serious, youthful face, the mouth and chin covered with an
incipient beard. The whole splendidly drawn, the composition simple,
grand and harmonious; the execution perfect and in every way worthy of
Dürer, though the colour is very thin, and has cracked in some places.

Such is the figure which we may imagine making its way among the crowd
in Gentile Bellini's Procession of the "True Cross" before St. Mark's,
with eyes all wonder and lips often consciously imprisoning the German
tongue, which cannot make itself understood. How comes he so finely
dressed, the son of the modest Nuremberg goldsmith? Has he won the
friendship of some rich burgher prince at Augsburg, or Strasburg, or
Basle? Has he been enabled to travel in his suite as far as Venice? Or
has he earned a large sum for painting some lord's or lady's portrait,
which, if it were not lost, would now stand as the worthy compeer of
this splendid portrait of the "true man" far from home; true to that
home only, or true to Agnes Frey?--for some suppose the sprig of eryngo
to signify that he was already betrothed to her. Or perhaps he has
joined Willibald Pirkheimer at Basle or elsewhere, and they two,
crossing the Alps together, have become friends for life? Will they part
here ere long, the young burgher prince to proceed to the Universities
of Padua and Mantua, the future great painter to trudge back over the
Alps, getting a lift now and again in waggon or carriage or on pillion?
Let the man of pretentious science say it is bootless to ask such
questions; those who ask them know that it is delightful; know that it
is the true way to make the past live for them; guess that would
historians more generally ask them, their books would be less often
dry as dust.


It may be that to this period belongs the meeting with Jacopo de'
Barbari to which a passage in his MS. books (now in the British Museum)
refers: and that already he began to be exercised on the subject of a
canon of proportions for the human figure. In the chapter which I devote
to his studies on this subject it will be seen how the determination to
work the problem out by experiment, since Jacopo refused to reveal, and
Vitruvius only hinted at the secret, led to his discovering something of
far more value than it is probable that either could have given him. And
yet the belief that there was a hidden secret probably hindered him from
fully realising the importance of his discovery, or reaping such benefit
from it as he otherwise might have done. How often has not the belief
that those of old time knew what is ignored to-day, prevented men from
taking full advantage of the conquests over ignorance that they have
made themselves! Because what they know is not so much as they suppose
might be or has been known, they fail to recognise the most that has yet
been known--the best foundation for a new building that has yet been
discovered--and search for what they possess, and fail to rival those
whose superiority over themselves is a delusion of their own hearts. So
early Dürer may have begun this life-long labour which, though not
wholly vain, was never really crowned to the degree it merited: while
others living in more fertile lands reaped what they had not sown, he
could only plough and scatter seed. As Raphael is supposed to have said,
all that was lacking to him was knowledge of the antique.

Perhaps many will blame me for writing, unlearned, as I am; in my
opinion they are not wrong; they speak truly. For I myself had rather
hear and read a learned man and one famous in this art than write of it
myself, being unlearned. Howbeit I can find none such who hath written
aught about how to form a canon of human proportions, save one man,
Jacopo (de' Barbari) by name, born at Venice and a charming painter. He
showed me the figures of a man and woman, which he had drawn according
to a canon of proportions; and now I would rather be shown what he meant
(_i.e._, upon what principles the proportions were constructed) than
behold a new kingdom. If I had it (his canon), I would put it into print
in his honour, for the use of all men. Then, however, I was still young
and had not heard of such things before. Howbeit I was very fond of art,
so I set myself to discover how such a canon might be wrought out. For
this aforesaid Jacopo, as I clearly saw, would not explain to me the
principles upon which he went. Accordingly I set to work on my own idea
and read Vitruvius, who writes somewhat about the human figure. Thus it
was from, or out of, these two men aforesaid that I took my start, and
thence, from day to day, have I followed up my search according to my
own notions.


When I returned home, Hans Prey treated with my father and gave me his
daughter, Mistress Agnes by name, and with her he gave me two hundred
florins, and we were wedded; it was on Monday before Margaret's (July 7)
in the year 1494.

The general acceptance of the gouty and irascible Pirkheimer's
defamation of Frau Dürer as a miser and a shrew called forth a display
of ingenuity on the part of Professor Thausing to prove the contrary.
And I must confess that if he has not quite done that, he seems to me to
have very thoroughly discredited Pirkheimer's ungallant abuse. Sir
Martin Conway bids us notice that Dürer speaks of his "dear father" and
his "dear mother" and even of his "dear father-in-law," but that he
never couples that adjective with his wife's name. It is very dangerous
to draw conclusions from such a fact, which may be merely an accident:
or may, if it represents a habit of Dürer's, bear precisely the opposite
significance. For some men are proud to drop such outward marks of
affection, in cases where they know that every day proves to every
witness that they are not needed. He also considers that her portraits
show her, when young, to have been "empty-headed," when older, a "frigid
shrew." For my own part, if the portrait at Bremen (see opposite)
represents "mein Angnes," as its resemblance to the sketch at Vienna
(see illus.) convinces me it does, I cannot accept either of these
conclusions arrived at by the redoubtable science of physiognomy. The
Bremen portrait shows us a refined, almost an eccentric type of beauty;
one can easily believe it to have been possessed by a person of
difficult character, but one certainly who must have had compensating
good qualities. The "mein Angnes" on the sketch may well be set against
the absent "dears" in the other mentions her husband made of her,
especially when we consider that he couples this adjective with the
Emperor's name, "my dear Prince Max." Of her relations to him nothing is
known except what Pirkheimer wrote in his rage, when he was writing
things which are demonstrably false. We know, however, that she was
capable, pious, and thrifty; and on several occasions, in the
Netherlands, shared in the honours done to her husband. It is natural to
suppose that as they were childless, there may have existed a moral
equivalent to this infertility; but also, with a man such as we know
Dürer to have been, and a woman in every case not bad, have we not
reason to expect that this moral barrenness which may have afflicted
their union was in some large measure conquered by mutual effort and
discipline, and bore from time to time those rarer flowers whose beauty
and sweetness repay the conscious culture of the soul? It seems
difficult to imagine that a man who succeeded in charming so many
different acquaintances, and in remaining life-long friends with the
testy and inconsiderate Pirkheimer, should have altogether failed to
create a relation kindly and even beautiful with his Agnes, whose
portrait we surely have at her best in the drawing at Bremen.
Considerations as to the general position of married women in those days
need not prevent us of our natural desire to think as well as possible
of Dürer and his circumstances. We know that for a great many men the
wife was not simply counted among their goods and chattels, or regarded
as a kind of superior servant. We are able to take a peep at many a
fireside of those days, where the relations that obtained, however
different in certain outward characters, might well shame the greater
number of the respectable even in the present year of grace. We know
what Luther was in these respects; and have rather more than less reason
to expect from the refined and gracious Dürer the creation of a worthy
and kindly home. Why should we expect him to have been less successful
than his parents in these respects?

[Illustration: AGNES FREY. DÜRER'S WIFE (?)--Silver-point drawing
heightened with white on a dun paper. Kunsthalle, Bremen]

[Illustration: "MEIN ANGNES"--Pen sketch of the artist's wife, in the
Albertina at Vienna]


Some time after the marriage it happened that my father was so ill with
dysentery that no one could stop it. And when he saw death before his
eyes he gave himself willingly to it, with great patience, and he
commended my mother to me, and exhorted me to live in a manner pleasing
to God. He received the Holy Sacraments and passed away Christianly (as
I have described at length in another book) in the year 1502, after
midnight, before S. Matthew's eve (September 20). God be gracious and
merciful to him.

The only leaf of the "other book" referred to that has survived is that
which I have already quoted at length.




Now let us consider what the world was like in which this virile,
accurate and persevering spirit had grown up. Over and over again, the
story of the New Birth has been told; how it began in France, and met an
untimely fate at the hands of English invaders, then took refuge in
Italy, where it grew to be the wonder of the world; and how the
corruption of the ruling classes and of the Church, with the indignation
and rebellion that this gave rise to, combined to frustrate the promise
of earlier days.

When the Roman Empire gradually became an anarchy of hostile fragments,
every large monastery, every small town, girded itself with walls and
tended to become the germ of a new civilisation. Popes, kings, and great
lords, haunted by reminiscence of the vanished empire, made spasmodic
attempts to subject such centres to their rule and tax them for their
maintenance. In the first times, the Church--the See of Rome--made by
far the most successful attempt to get its supremacy acknowledged, and
had therefore fewer occasions to resort to violence. It was more
respected and more respectable than the other powers which claimed to
rule and tax these immured and isolated communities dotted over Europe;
but as time went on, the Church became less and less beneficent, more
and more tyrannical. Meanwhile kings and emperors, having learned wisdom
by experience, found themselves in a position to take advantage of the
growing bad odour of the Church; and by favouring the civil communities
and creating a stable hierarchy among the class of lords and barons from
which they had emerged, were at last able to face the Church, with its
_protégés,_ the religious communities, on an equal footing.

The religious communities, owing to the vow of celibacy, had become more
and more stagnant, while the civil communities increased in power to
adapt themselves to the age. All that was virile and creative combined
in the towns; all that was inadequate, sterile, useless, coagulated in
the monasteries, which thus became cesspools, and ultimately took on the
character of festering sores by which the civil bodies which had at
first been purged into them were endangered. Luther tells us how there
was a Bishop of Würzburg who used to say when he saw a rogue, "'To the
cloister with you. Thou art useless to God or man.' He meant that in the
cloister were only hogs and gluttons, who did nothing but eat and drink
and sleep, and were of no more profit than as many rats." And the
loathing that another of these sties created in the young Erasmus, and
the difficulty he had to escape from the clutches of its inmates--never
feeling safe till the Pope had intervened--show us that by their wealth
and by the engine of their malice, the confessional (which they had
usurped from the regular clergy), they were as formidable as they were
useless. It became necessary that this antiquated system of social
drainage should be superseded.

In England and Germany it was swept away. In centres like Nuremberg, the
desire for reformation and the horror of false doctrine were grounded in
practical experience of intolerable inconveniences, not in a clear
understanding of the questions at issue. Intellectually, the leaders of
the Reformation had no better foundation than those they opposed: for
them, as for their opponents, the question was not to be solved by an
appeal to evident truths and experience, but to historical documents and
traditions, supposed, to be infallible. For a clear intelligence, there
is nothing to choose between the infallibility of oecumenical councils
or of Popes, and that of the Bible. Both have been in their time the
expression of very worthy and very human sentiments; both are incapable
of rational demonstration.


Scattered over Europe, wherever the free intelligence was waking and had
rubbed her eyes, were men who desired that nuisances should be removed
and reforms operated without schism or violence. To these Erasmus spoke.
His policy was tentative, and did not proceed, like that of other
parties, by declaring that a perfect solution was to hand. Luther's
action divided these honest, upright souls, and would-be children of
light, into three unequal camps.

As a rule the downright, headstrong, and impatient became reformers. The
respectful, cautious and long-suffering, such as More, Warham, and
Adrian IV., clung to the Roman establishment, were martyred for it or
broke their hearts over it. Erasmus and a handful of others remained
true to a tentative policy, and, compared with their contemporaries,
were meek and lowly in heart--became children of light. To them we now
look back wistfully, and wish that they might have been, if not as
numerous as the Churchmen and Beformers, at least a sufficient body to
have made their influence an effective force, with the advantage of more
light and more patience that was really theirs. But, alas! they only
counted as the first dissolvent which set free more corrosive and
detrimental acids. The exhilaration of action and battle was for others;
for them the sad conviction that neither side deserved to be trusted
with a victory. Yet, beyond the world whose chief interest was the
Reformation, we may be sure that such men as Charles V., Michael Angelo,
Rabelais, Montaigne, and all those whom they may be taken to represent,
were in essential agreement with Erasmus. Luther and Machiavelli alone
rejected the Papacy as such: the latter's more stringent intellectual
development led him also to discard every ideal motive or agent of
reform for violent means. He was ready even to regard the passions of
men like Caesar Borgia, tyrants in the fullest sense of the word, as the
engines by which civilisation, learning, art, and manners, might be
maintained. Whereas Luther appealed to the passions of common honest
men, the middle classes in fact. It is easy to let either Luther or
Machiavelli steal away our entire sympathy. On the one hand, no
compromise, not even the slightest, seems possible with criminal
ruffians such as a Julius II. and an Alexander Borgia; on the other
hand, the power swollen by the tide of minor corruption, which such men
ruled by might, did come into the hands of a Leo X., an Adrian IV.; and
though that power was obviously tainted through and through, it might
have been mastered and wielded in the cause of reform. Erasmus hoped for
this. Even Julius II. protected him from the superiors of his convent.
Even Julius II. patronised Michael Angelo and Raphael and everything
that had a definite character in the way of creative power or
scholarship; and could appreciate at least the respect which what he
patronised commanded. He could appreciate the respect commanded by the
austerity and virtue of those who rebelled against him and denounced his
cynical abuse of all his powers, whether natural or official. He liked
to think he had enemies worth beating. Such a ruler is a sore temptation
to a keen intellect. "Everything great is formative," and this Pope was
colossal--a colossal bully and robber if you like--but the good he did
by his patronage was real good, was practical. Michael Angelo and
Raphael could work as splendidly as they desired. Erasmus was helped and
encouraged. Timid honesty is often petty, does nothing, criticises and
finds fault with artists and with learning, runs after them like Sancho
Panza after Don Quixote, is helpless and ridiculous and horribly in the
way. Leo X. was intelligent and well-meaning; wisdom herself might hope
from such a man. Be the throne he is sitting on as monstrous and corrupt
a contrivance as it may, yet it is there, it does give him authority; he
is on it and dominates the world. It is easy to say, "But the period of
the Renascence closed, its glory died away." Suppose Luther had been as
subtle as he was whole-hearted, and had added to his force of character
a delicacy and charm like that of St. Francis; or suppose that Erasmus
instead of his schoolfellow Adrian IV. had become Pope; what a different
tale there might have been to tell! Who will presume to point out the
necessity by which these things were thus and not otherwise? "Regrets
for what 'might have been' are proverbially idle," cries the historian
from whom I have chiefly quoted. I do not recollect the proverb, unless
he refers to "It is no use crying over spilt milk;" but in any case such
regrets are far from being necessarily idle. "What might have been" is
even generally "what ought to have been;" and no study has been or is
likely to be so pregnant for us as the study of the contrast between
"what was" and "what ought to have been," though such studies are
inevitably mingled with regrets. We have every reason to regret that the
Reformation was so hasty and ill-considered, and that the Papacy was as
purblind as it was arrogant. The plant of the Roman Church machinery,
which it had taken centuries to lay down, came into the hands of men who
grossly ignored its function and the conditions of its working. They
used its power partly for the benefit of the human race, by patronising
art and scholarship; but chiefly in self-indulgence. If honest
intelligence had been given control, a man so partially equipped for his
task would not have been goaded into action; but only force, moral or
physical, can act at a disadvantage; light and reason must have the
advantage of dominant position to effect anything immediate. If they are
not on the throne, all they can do is to sow seed, and bewail the
present while looking forward to a better future. Now, most educated men
are for tolerance, and see as Erasmus saw. We see that Savonarola and
Luther were not so right as they thought themselves to be; we see that
what they condemned as arrogancy and corruption is partly excusable--is
in some measure a condition of efficiency in worldly spheres where one
has to employ men already bad. True, the great princes and cardinals of
those days not only connived at corruption and ruled by it, but often
even professed it. Still in every epoch, under all circumstances, the
majority of those who have governed men have more or less cynically
employed means that will not bear the light of day. While these
magnificoes of the Renascence do stand alone, or almost alone, by the
ample generosity of their conception of the objects that power should be
exerted in furtherance of; their outlook on life was more commensurate
with the variety and competence of human nature than perhaps that of any
ruling class has been before or since. As Shakespeare is the amplest of
poets, so were theirs the most fruitful of courts. From the great
Medicis to our own Elizabeth they all partake of a certain grandiose
vitality and variety of intention.


Greatness demands self-assertion; self-assertion is a great virtue even
in a Julius II. There is a vast deal of humbug in the use we make of the
word humility. We talk about Christ's humility, but whose self-assertion
has ever been more unmitigated? "I am the Way, the Truth, and the
Light." "Learn of Me that I am meek and lowly, and ye shall find rest to
your souls." No doubt it is the quality of the self asserted that
justifies in our eyes the assertion; humility then is not opposed to
self-assertion. When Michael Angelo shows that he thinks himself the
greatest artist in the world, he is not necessarily lacking in humility;
nor is Luther, asserting the authority of his conscience against the
Pope and Emperor; nor Dürer, saying to us in those little finely-dressed
portraits with which he signs his pictures, "I am that I am--namely, one
of the handsomest of men and the greatest artist north of the Alps." Or
when Erasmus lets us see that he thinks himself the most learned man
living,--if he is the most learned, so much the better that he should
know this also as well as the rest. The artist and the scholar were
bound to feel gratitude for the corrupt but splendid Church and courts,
which gave them so much both in the way of maintenance and opportunity.
It may be asked, has all the honesty and the not always evident purity
of Protestantism done so much for the world as those dissolute Popes and
Princes? And the artist, judging with a hasty bias perhaps, is likely to
answer no.


For us nowadays the pith of history seems no more to be the lives of
monarchs, or the fighting of battles, or even the deliberations of
councils; these things we have more and more come to regard merely as
tools and engines for the creation of societies, homes, and friends. And
so, though religion and religious machinery dominated the life of those
days, it is not in theological disputes, neither is it in oecumenical
councils and Popes, nor in sermons, reformers, and synods, that we find
the essence of the soul's life. Rather to us, the pictures, the statues,
the books, the furniture, the wardrobes, the letters, and the scandals
that have been left behind, speak to us of those days; for these we
value them. And we are right, the value of the Renaissance lies in these
things, I say "the scandals" of those days; for a part of what comes
under that head was perhaps the manifestation of a morality based on a
wider experience; though its association with obvious vices and its
opposition to the old and stale ideals gave it an illegitimate
character; while the re-establishment of the more part of those ideals
has perpetuated its reproach. There can be no intellectual charity if
the machinery and special sentences of current morality are supposed to
be final or truly adequate. Their tentative and inadequate character,
which every free intelligence recognises, is what endorses the wisdom of
Jesus', saying, "Judge not that ye be not judged." Ordinary honest and
good citizens do not realise how much that is in every way superior to
the gifts of any single one of themselves is yearly sacrificed and
tortured for their preservation as a class. On what agonies of creative
and original minds is the safety of their homes based? These respectable
Molochs who devour both the poor and the exceptionally gifted, and are
so little better for their meal, were during the Renascence for a time
gainsaid and abashed; yet even then their engines, the traditional
secular and ecclesiastic policies, were a foreign encumbrance with which
the human spirit was loaded, and which helped to prevent it from reaping
the full result of its mighty upheaval.

To see things as they are, and above all to value them for what is most
essential in them with regard to the development of our own
characters;--that is, I take it, consciously or unconsciously, the main
effort of the modern spirit. On the world, the flesh, and the devil, we
have put new values; and it was the first assertion of these new values
which caused the Renascence. Fine manners, fine clothes, and varied
social interchange make the world admirable in our eyes, not at all a
bogey to frighten us. Health, frankness, and abundant exercise make the
flesh a pure delight in our eyes; lastly, this new-born spirit has made
"a moral of the devil himself," and so for us he has lost his terror.

Rabelais was right when he laughed the old outworn values down, and
declared that women were in the first place female, men in the first
place male; that the written word should be a self-expression, a
sincerity, not a task or a catalogue or a penance, but, like laughter
and speech, essentially human, making all men brothers, doing away with
artificial barriers and distinctions, making the scholar shake in time
with the toper, and doubling the divine up with the losel; bidding even
the lady hold her sides in company with the harlot. Eating and drinking
were seen to be good in themselves; the eye and the nose and the palate
were not only to be respected but courted; free love was better than
married enmity. No rite, no church, no god, could annihilate these facts
or restrain their influence any more than the sea could be tamed. Dürer
was touched with this spirit; we see it in his fine clothes, in his
collector's rapacity, above all in his letters to his friend
Pirkheimer--a man more typical of that Rabelaisian age than Dürer and
Michael Angelo, who were both of them not only modern men but men
conservative of the best that had been--men in travail for the future,
absorbed by the responsibility of those who create.

Pirkheimer, one year Dürer's senior, was a gross fat man early in life,
enjoying the clinking of goblets, the music of fork and knife, and the
effrontery of obscene jests. A vain man, a soldier and a scholar,
pedantic, irritable, but in earnest; a complimenter of Emperors, a
leader of the reform party, a partisan of Luther's, the friend and
correspondent of Erasmus, the elective brother of Dürer. The man was
typical; his fellows were in all lands. Dürer was surprised to find how
many of them there were at Venice--men who would delight Pirkheimer and
delight in him. "My friend, there are so many Italians here who look
exactly like you I don't know how it happens! ... men of sense and
knowledge, good lute players and pipers, judges of painting, men of much
noble sentiment and honest virtue; and they show me much honour and
friendship." Something of all this was doubtless in Dürer too; but in
him it was refined and harmonised by the sense and serious concern, not
only for the things of to-day, but for those of to-morrow and yesterday;
the sense of solidarity, the passion for permanent effect, eternal
excellence. These things, in men like Pirkheimer, still more in Erasmus,
and even in Rabelais and Montaigne, are not absent; but they are less
stringent, less religious, than they are in a Dürer or a Michael Angelo.




There are several reasons which may possibly have led Dürer to visit
Venice in 1505. The Fondaco dei Tedeschi, or Exchange of the German
Merchants at Venice, had been burned down the winter before, and they
were in haste to complete a new one. Dürer may have received assurance
that the commission to paint the altar-piece for the new chapel would be
his did he desire it. At any rate he seems to have set to work on such a
picture almost as soon as he arrived there. It is strange to think that
Giorgione and Titian probably began to paint the frescoes on the facade
while he was still at work in the chapel, or soon after he left. The
plague broke out in Nuremberg before he came away; but this is not
likely to have been his principal motive for leaving home, as many
richer men, such as his friend Pirkheimer, from whom he borrowed money
for the journey, stayed where they were. Nor do Dürer's letters reveal
any alarm for his friend's, his mother's, his wife's, or his brother's
safety. He took with him six small pictures, and probably a great number
of prints, for Venice was a first-rate market.


The letters which follow are like a glimpse of a distant scene in a
_camera obscura_, and, like life itself, they are full of repetitions
and over-insistence on what is insignificant or of temporary interest.
To-day they call for our patience and forbearance, and it will depend
upon our imaginative activity in what degree they repay them; even as it
depends upon our power of affectionate assimilation in what degree and
kind every common day adds to our real possessions.

I have made my citations as ample as possible, so as to give the reader
a just idea of their character while making them centre as far as
possible round points of special interest.

_To the honourable, wise Master Wilibald Pirkheimer, Burgher of Nürberg,
my kind Master_. VENICE, _January 6, 1506._

I wish you and yours many good, happy New Years. My willing service,
first of all, to you dear Master Pirkheimer! Know that I am in good
health; I pray God far better things than that for you. As to those
pearls and precious stones which you gave me commission to buy, you must
know that I can find nothing good or even worth its price. Everything is
snapped up by the Germans who hang about the Riva. They always want to
get four times the value for anything, for they are the falsest knaves
alive. No one need look for an honest service from any of them. Some
good fellows have warned me to beware of them, they cheat man and beast.
You can buy better things at a lower price at Frankfurt than at Venice.

[Illustration: Wilibald Pirkheimer--Charcoal Drawing, Dumesnil
Collection, Paris _Face p._ 80]

About the books which I was to order for you, the Imhofs have already
seen after them; but if there is anything else you want, let me know and
I will attend to it for you with all zeal. Would to God I could do you a
right good service! gladly would I accomplish it, seeing, as I do, how
much you do for me. And I pray you be patient with my debt, for indeed I
think much oftener of it than you do. When God helps me home I will
honourably repay you with many thanks; for I have a panel to paint for
the Germans for which they are to pay me a hundred and ten Rhenish
florins--it will not cost me as much as five. I shall have scraped it and
laid on the ground and made it ready within eight days; then I shall at
once begin to paint and, if God will, it shall be in its place above the
altar a month after Easter.

       *       *       *       *       *

VENICE, _February 17_, 1506.

How I wish you were here at Venice! There are so many nice men among the
Italians who seek my company more and more every day--which is very
pleasing to one--men of sense and knowledge, good lute-players and
pipers, judges of painting, men of much noble sentiment and 'honest
virtue, and they show me much honour and friendship. On the other hand
there are also amongst them some of the most false, lying, thievish
rascals; I should never have believed that such were living in the
world. If one did not know them, one would think them the nicest men the
earth could show. For my own part I cannot help laughing at them
whenever they talk to me. They know that their knavery is no secret but
they don't mind.

Amongst the Italians I have many good friends who warn me not to eat and
drink with their painters. Many of them are my enemies and they copy my
work in the churches and wherever they can find it; and then they revile
it and say that the style is not _antique_ and so not good. But Giovanni
Bellini has highly praised me before many nobles. He wanted to have
something of mine, and himself came to me and asked me to paint him
something and he would pay well for it. And all men tell me what an
upright man he is, so that I am really friendly with him. He is very
old, but is still the best painter of them all. And that which so well
pleased me eleven years ago pleases me no longer, if I had not seen it
for myself I should not have believed any one who told me. You must know
too that there are many better painters here than Master Jacob (Jacopo
de' Barbari) is abroad (_wider darvsen Meister J._), yet Anton Kolb
would swear an oath that no better painter lives than Jacob. Others
sneer at him, saying if he were good he would stay here, and so forth.

I have only to-day begun to sketch in my picture, for my hands were so
scabby (_grindig_) that I could do no work with them, but I have got
them cured.

Now be lenient with me and don't get in a passion so easily, but be
gentle like me. I don't know why you will not learn from me. My friend!
I should like to know if any one of your loves is dead--that one close
by the water for instance, or the one called [Illustration] or
[Illustration] or a [Illustration] so that you might supply her place by

VENICE, February 28, 1506.

I wish you had occasion to come here, I know you would not find time
hang on your hands, for there are so many nice men in this country,
right good artists. I have such a throng of Italians about me that at
times I have to shut myself up. The nobles all wish me well, but few of
the painters.

       *       *       *       *       *

VENICE, _April_ 2, 1506.

The painters here, let me tell you, are very unfriendly to me. They have
summoned me three times before the magistrates, and I have had to pay
four florins to their school. You must also know that I might have
gained a great deal of money if I had not undertaken to paint the German
picture. There is much work in it and I cannot get it quite finished
before Whitsuntide. Yet they only pay me eighty-five ducats for it. Now
you know how much it costs to live, and then I have bought some things
and sent some money away, so that I have not much before me now. But
don't misunderstand me, I am firmly purposed not to go away hence till
God enables me to repay you with thanks and to have a hundred florins
over besides. I should easily earn this if I had not got the German
picture to paint, for all men except the painters wish me well.

Tell my mother to speak to Wolgemut about my brother, and to ask him
whether he can make use of him and give him work till I come, or whether
he can put him with some one else. I should gladly have brought him with
me to Venice, and that would have been useful both to me and him, and he
would have learnt the language, but my mother was afraid that the sky
would fall on him. Pray keep an eye on him yourself, the women are no
use for that. Tell the lad, as you so well can, to be studious and
honest till I come, and not to be a trouble to his mother; if I cannot
arrange everything I will at all events do all that I can. Alone I
certainly should not starve, but to support many is too hard for me, for
no one throws his gold away.

Now I commend myself to you. Tell my mother to be ready to sell at the
Crown-fair (_Heiligthumsfest_). I am arranging for my wife to have come
home by then; I have written to her too about everything. I will not
take any steps about buying the diamond ornament till I get your
next letter.

I don't think I shall be able to come home before next autumn, when what
I earned for the picture, which was to have been ready by Whitsuntide,
will be quite used up in living expenses, purchases, and payments; what,
however, I gain afterwards I hope to save. If you see fit don't speak of
this further, and I will keep putting off my leaving from day to day and
writing as though I was just coming. I am indeed very uncertain what to
do next. Write to me again soon.

Given on Thursday before Palm Sunday in the year 1506. ALBRECHT DÜRER,
Your Servant.

VENICE, _August_ 18, 1506.

_To the first, greatest man in the world. Your servant and slave
Albrecht Dürer sends salutation to his Magnificent master Wilibald_
Pirkheimer. _My truth! I hear gladly and with great satisfaction of your
health and great honours. I wonder how it is possible for a man like you
to stand against_ so many _wisest princes,_ swaggerers _and soldiers; it
must be by some special grace of God. When I read your letter about this
terrible grimace, it gave me a great fright and I thought it was a most
important thing,_[15] but I warrant that you frightened even Schott's
men,[16] you with your fierce look and your holiday hopping step. But it
is very improper for such folk to smear themselves with civet. You want
to become a real silk-tail and you think that, if only you manage to
please the girls, the thing is done. If you were only as taking a fellow
as I am, it would not provoke me so. You have so many loves that merely
to pay each one a visit you would take a month or more before you got
through the list.

For one thing I return you my thanks, namely, for explaining my position
in the best way to my wife; but I know that there is no lack of wisdom
in you. If only you had my meekness you would have all virtues. Thank
you also for all the good you have done me, if only you would not bother
me about the rings! If they don't please you, break their heads off and
pitch them out on to the dunghill as Peter Weisweber says. What do you
mean by setting me to such dirty work? _I_ have become a _gentleman_
at Venice.

I have also heard that you can make lovely rhymes; you would be a find
for our fiddlers here; they fiddle so beautifully that they can't help
weeping over it themselves. Would God our Rechenmeister girl could hear
them, she would cry too. At your bidding I will again lay aside my anger
and bear myself even more bravely than usual.

Now let me commend myself to you; give my willing service to our Prior
for me; tell him to pray God for me that I may be protected, and
especially from the French sickness; I know of nothing that I now dread
more than that, for well nigh every one has got it. Many men are quite
eaten up and die of it.

VENICE, _September_ 8, 1506.

Most learned, approved, wise, knower of many languages, sharp to detect
all encountered lies and quick to recognise plain truth! Honourable
much-regarded Herr Wilibald Pirkheimer. Your humble servant Albrecht
Dürer wishes you all hail, great and worthy honour _in the devil's name,_
so much for the twaddle of which you are so fond. I wager that for
this[17] you would think me too an orator of a hundred parts. A chamber
must have more than four corners which is to contain the gods of memory.
I am not going to cram my head full of them; that I leave to you; for I
believe that however many chambers there might be in the head, you would
have something in each of them. The Margrave would not grant an audience
long enough!--a hundred headings and to each heading, say, a hundred
words, that takes 9 days 7 hours 52 minutes, not counting the sighs
which I have not yet reckoned in. In fact you could not get through the
whole at one go; it would stretch itself out like the speech of some old

I have taken all manner of trouble about the carpets but cannot find any
broad ones; they are all narrow and long. However I still look about
every day for them and so does Anton Kolb.

I have given Bernhard Hirschvogel your greeting and he sent you his
service. He is full of sorrow for the death of his Son, the nicest lad
I ever saw.

I can get none of your foolish featherlets. Oh, if only you were here!
how you would like these fine Italian soldiers! How often I think of
you! Would to God that you and Kunz Kamerer could see them! They have
great scythe-lances with 278 points, if they only touch a man with them
he dies, for they are all poisoned. Hey! I can do it well, I'll be an
Italian soldier. The Venetians as well as the Pope and the King of
France are collecting many men; what will come of it I don't know, but
people ridicule our King very much.

Wish Stephan Paumgartner much happiness from me. I don't wonder at his
having taken a wife. Give my greeting to Borsch, Herr Lorenz, and our
fair friends, as well as to your Rechenmeister girl, and thank that
head-chamber of yours alone for remembering her greeting; tell her she's
a nasty one.


I sent you olive-wood from Venice to Augsburg, where I directed it to be
left, a full ten hundredweight. She says she would not wait for it;
_whence the stink_.

My picture, you must know, says it would give a ducat for you to see it,
it is well painted and beautifully coloured. I have earned much praise
but little profit by it. In the time it took to paint I could easily
have earned 220 ducats, and now I have declined much work, in order that
I may come home. I have stopped the mouths of all the painters who used
to say that I was good at engraving but, as to painting. I did not know
how to handle my colours. Now every one says that better colouring they
have never seen.

My French mantle greets you and my Italian coat also. It strikes me that
there is an odour of gallantry about you; I can scent it out even at
this distance; and they tell me here that when you go a-courting you
pretend not to be more than twenty-five years old--oh, yes! double that
and I'll believe it. My friend, there are so many Italians here who look
exactly like you; I don't know how it happens!

The Doge and the Patriarch have also seen my picture. Herewith let me
commend myself to you as your servant. I must really go to sleep as it
is striking the seventh hour of the night, and I have already written to
the Prior of the Augustines, to my father-in-law, to Mistress Dietrich,
and to my wife, and they are all downright whole sheets full. So I have
had to hurry over this letter, read it according to the sense. You would
doubtless do better if you were writing to a lot of Princes. Many good
nights and days too. Given at Venice on our Lady's day in September.

You need not lend my wife and mother anything; they have got money


VENICE, _September 23_, 1506.

Your letter telling me of the praise that you get to overflowing from
Princes and nobles gave me great delight. You must be altogether altered
to have become so gentle; I shall hardly know you when I meet you again.

You must know that my picture is finished as well as another
_Quadro_[18] the like of which I have never painted before. And as you
are so pleased with yourself, let me tell you that there is no better
Madonna picture in the land than mine; for all the painters praise it,
as the nobles do you. They say that they have never seen a nobler,
more charming painting, and so forth.

       *       *       *       *       *

But in order to come home as soon as possible, I have, since my picture
was finished, refused work that would have yielded me more than 2000
ducats. This all men know who live about me here.

Bernhard Holzbeck has told me great things of you, though I think he
does so because you have become his brother-in-law. But nothing makes me
more angry than when any one says that you are good-looking; if that
were so I should become really ugly. That could make me mad. I have
found a grey hair on myself, it is the result of so much excitement. And
I fear that while I play such pranks with myself there are still bad
days before me, &c.

My French mantle, my doublet, and my brown coat send you a hearty
greeting, I should be glad to see what great thing your head-piece can
produce that you hold yourself so high.

VENICE, _about October_ 13, 1506.

Knowing that you are aware of my devotion to your service there is no
need for me to write to you about it; but so much the more necessary is
it for me to tell you of the great pleasure it gives me to hear of the
high honour and fame which your manly wisdom and learned skill have
brought you. This is the more to be wondered at, for seldom or never in
a young body can the like be found. It comes to you, however, as to me,
by a special grace of God. How pleased we both are when we fancy
ourselves worth somewhat--I with my painting, and you with your wisdom.
When any one praises us, we hold up our heads and believe him. Yet
perhaps he is only some false flatterer who is scorning us all the time.
So don't credit any one who praises you, for you've no notion how
utterly and entirely unmannerly you are. I can quite see you standing
before the Margrave and speaking so pleasantly--behaving exactly as if
you were flirting with Mistress Rosentaler, cringing as you do. It did
not escape me that, when you wrote your last letter, you were quite full
of amorous thoughts. You ought to be ashamed of yourself, an old fellow
like you pretending to be so good-looking. Flirting pleases you in the
same way that a shaggy old dog likes a game with a kitten. If you were
only as fine and gentle a man as I, I could understand it. If I become
burgomaster I will serve you with the Luginsland.[19] as you do to pious
Zamesser and me. I will have you for once shut up there with the ladies
Rechenmeister, Rosentaler, Gärtner, Schutz, and Pör, and many others
whom for shortness I will not name; they must deal with you.

People enquire more after me than you, for you yourself write that both
girls and honourable wives ask after me--that is a sign of my virtue.
When, however, God helps me home I don't know how I shall any longer
stand you with your great wisdom; but for your virtue and good temper I
am glad, and your dogs will be the better for it, for you will no longer
strike them lame. Now however that you are thought so much of at home,
you won't dare to talk to a poor painter in the street any more; to be
seen with the painter varlet would be a great disgrace for you.

O, dear Herr Pirkheimer, just now while I was writing to you, the alarm
of fire was raised and six houses over by Pietro Venier are burnt, and a
woollen cloth of mine, for which only yesterday I paid eight ducats, is
burnt, so I too am in trouble. There is much excitement here about
the fire.

As to your summons to me to come home soon, I shall come as soon as ever
I can, but I must first gain money for my expenses. I have paid away
about 100 ducats for colours and other things. I have ordered you two
carpets for which I shall pay to-morrow, but I could not get them cheap.
I will pack them in with my linen.

And as to your threat that, unless I come home soon, you will make love
to my wife, don't attempt it--a ponderous fellow like you would be the
death of her.

I must tell you that I set to work to learn dancing and went twice to
the school, for which I had to pay the master a ducat. No one could get
me to go there again. To learn dancing I should have had to pay away all
that I have earned, and at the end I should have known nothing about it.

[Illustration: HANS BURGKMAIR--Black chalk drawing on yellowish prepared
ground. The lights and background in watercolor may possibly have been
added later At Oxford]

In reply to your question when I shall come home, I tell you, so that my
lords may also make their arrangements, that I shall have finished here
in ten days; after that I should like to ride to Bologna to learn the
secrets of the art of perspective, which a man is willing to teach me. I
should stay there eight or ten days and then return to Venice. After
that I shall come with the next messenger. How I shall freeze after this
sun! Here I am a gentleman, at home only a parasite.


Sir Martin Conway writes:

He (Dürer) enjoyed Venice; he liked the Italians; he was oppressed with
orders for work; the climate suited him, and the warm sun was a pleasant
contrast to the snows and frost of a Franconian winter. But Dürer's
German heart was true; its truth was the secret of his success.... The
syren voice of Italy charmed to their destruction most Germans who
listened to it. Brought face to face with the Italian Ideal of Grace,
they one after another abandoned for it the Ideal of Strength peculiarly
their own.

We do not resort to these arguments to approve Holbein or Van Dyck for
their long residence in England. I am not sure how much false sentiment
inspired Thausing when he first praised Dürer in this strain; but I must
confess I suspect it was no little. I incline to think that the best
country for an artist is not always the one he was born in, but often
that one where his art finds the best conditions to foster it. We do not
honour Dürer by supposing that he would have been among that majority of
Dutch and German artists who, weaker than Roger van der Weyden and
Burgkmair, returned from Italy injured and enfeebled; even if he had
passed the greater portion of his life with her syren voice in his ears.

Dürer could not bring himself to undergo for art's sake what Michael
Angelo endured; years of exile from a beloved native city, and, still
worse, years of exile from the most congenial spiritual atmosphere.
Nevertheless, we must remember that the difference of language would
have made life in Venice for Dürer a much more complete exile than life
in Verona was for Dante, or life in Rome for Michael Angelo. So he did
not share the patronage and generous recognition which gave Titian such
a splendid opportunity. He ceased for a time at least to be a gentleman
to become a hanger-on, a parasite once more. At Antwerp he once more was
met by the same generosity and recognition only to refuse again to
accept it as a gift for life and return to his beloved Nuremberg, where
it is true his position continually improved, though it never equalled
what had been offered at Venice and Antwerp.


The tone of some of the pleasantries in these letters may rather
astonish good people who, having accepted the fact that Dürer was a
religious man, have at once given him the tone and address of a meeting
of churchwardens, if they have not conjured up a vision of him in a
frock coat. "Things are what they are," said Bishop Butler, and so are
women; boys will be boys. The distinctive functions of the two sexes
were in those days kept more in view if not more in mind than is the
case to-day. The fashions in dress and in deportment were particularly
frank upon this point, especially for the young. One may allow as much
as is desired for the corruption of manners produced by the civil and
religious mercenaries, soldiers of fortune, and friars. There will
always remain a certain truth and propriety, a certain grace and charm
in those costumes and that deportment, as also in the freedom of jest
which characterises even the most modest of Shakespeare's heroines; and
under the influence of their spell we shall feel that all has not been
gain in the change that has gradually been operated. No doubt virtue is
a victory over nature, and chastity a refinement; but among conquerors
some are easy and good-natured, others tactless, awkward, insulting; and
among the chaste some are fearless and enjoy the freedom which courage
and clear conscience give, others timid and suffer the oppression of
their fears. Even among sinners some make the best of weaknesses and
redeem them a great deal more than half, while others magnify smaller
faults by lack of self-possession till they are an insupportable
nuisance. We may well admit that from the successes of those days, those
who succeed to our delight to-day may glean additional attractions.


We know that Dürer stopped on at Venice into the year 1507, by a note
which he made in a copy of Euclid, now in the library at Wolfenbüttel.
"This book have I bought at Venice for a ducat in the year 1507.
Albrecht Dürer"; and by another stray note we learn the state of his
worldly affairs on his return.

The following is my property, which I have with difficulty acquired by
the labour of my hand, for I have had no opportunity of great gain. I
have moreover suffered much loss by lending what was not repaid me, and
by apprentices who never paid their fees, and one died at Rome whereby I
lost my wares.

In the thirteenth year of my wedlock (Le., 1507-8) I have paid great
debts with what I earned at Venice. I possess fairly good household
furniture, good clothes, chests, some good pewter vessels, good
materials for my work, bedding and cupboards, and good colours worth 100
florins Rhenish.

The wares that Dürer lost in Rome were doubtless chiefly woodcuts and
engravings which his prentice had taken to sell during his
_wanderjahre_, as Dürer himself during his own had very likely sold
prints for Wolgemut. One of the reasons which had taken him to Venice
may have been to summon Marc Antonio before the Signoria, for having
copied not only his engravings, but the monogram with which he signed
them; in any case he obtained a decree defending him against such
artistic forgery. Dürer's most steady resource seems to have been the
sale of prints; it is these that his wife had sold in his absence, and
in the diary of his journey to the Netherlands there is constant mention
of such sales. Nuremberg was very much behind Antwerp or Venice in the
price paid for works of art; and the possibilities of such a market as
Rome had very likely tempted Dürer to trust his prentice with an unusual
quantity of prints. His worldly affairs were neither brilliant nor
secure; yet we shall find him tempted on receiving an important
commission to spend so much in time and material as to make it
impossible for him to realise a profit. We are accustomed to think that
these trials were spared to artists in the past by the munificence of
patrons: but apart from the fact that patrons often paid only with
promises or by granting credit, at Nuremberg there were few magnificent
patrons, and its burghers were in no way so generous or so extravagant
as those of Venice or Antwerp. In fact, Dürer's position was very
similar to that of the modern artist, who finds little and insufficient
patronage, and can make more if he is lucky by the reproduction of his
creations for the great public. But Dürer still had one advantage over
his fellow-sufferers of to-day--that of being his own publisher.
Doubtless portraits were as popular then as nowadays; but if the public
taste had not been prostituted by a seductive commercialism to the
degree that at present obtains, on the other hand, at Nuremberg at
least, the fashion seems to have been very little developed; and most of
Dürer's important portraits seem to have been the result of his sojourns
away from home.


[Footnote 15: Thus far the original is in bad Italian.]

[Footnote 16: The retainers of Konz Schott, a neighbouring baron, at one
time a conspicuous enemy of Nürnberg.]

[Footnote 17: These words are in Italian in the original.]

[Footnote 18: Prof. Thausing suggests that this "other _Quadro_" is the
"Christ among the Doctors" in the Barberini Gallery at Rome--a picture
containing seven life-size half-figures or heads, and dated 1506. The
inscription states it to have been _opus quinque dierum_. At Brunswick
there is an old copy of it. The original studies for the hands are
likewise in existence. In Lorenzo Lotto's Madonna of 1508 in the
Borghese Gallery at Rome, the head of St. Onuphrius is taken from the
model who sat for the front Pharisee on the left in Dürer's picture.]

[Footnote 19: A Nürnberg prison.]




Dürer had hitherto occasionally enjoyed the patronage of the wise
Elector, Frederick of Saxony, for whom he painted the brilliant
_Adoration of the Magi_ in the Uffizi. He was soon to obtain that of
Maximilian, but this genial and eccentric emperor proved a fussy patron,
as quick to change his mind and to interfere with impossible demands and
criticisms, as he was slow to pay and deficient in means for being truly
generous. There are a certain number of letters which give a glimpse of
Dürer's relations with his clients; they show him appealing always to
the judgment of artists against the ignorant buyer, and giving more than
he bargained to give, though thereby he eats up his legitimate profits;
lastly, they show him vowing never again to enter upon work so
unprofitable, but to give all his time to the creation of engravings and
woodcuts. The first is written to Michael Behaim, who died in 1511, and
had commissioned him to make a design for a woodcut of his coat of arms.

DEAR MASTER MICHAEL BEHAIM,--I send you back the coat of arms again.
Pray let it stay as it is. No one could improve it for you, for I made
it artistically and with care. Those who see it and understand such
matters will tell you so. If the leafwork on the helm were tossed up
backward, it would hide the fillet. Your humble servant, ALBRECHT DÜRER.

[Illustration: Photograph J. Lowy--THE ADORATION OF THE TRINITY,
1511--From the painting at Vienna]

The other letters concern the lost _Coronation of the Virgin_, the
centre panel of an altar-piece of which the wings are still at
Frankfurt, of which town Jacob Heller, who commissioned it, was a
burgher. They were to be studio work, and are supposed to be chiefly due
to Dürer's brother Hans. There is, however, one picture extant which
gives an idea of the execution of the missing centre panel, the _Holy
Trinity and All Saints_ at Vienna; which, in spite of his vow never to
do such work again, was commenced shortly after the _Coronation_, and
for a Nuremberg patron. How much he was paid for it is not known; but it
cannot have been a really adequate sum, as towards the end of his life
he writes to the Nuremberg Council, "I have not received from people in
this town work worth five hundred florins, truly a trifling and
ridiculous sum, and not the fifth part of that has been profit." The
preceding picture, referred to in the first letters, is the _Martyrdom
of the Ten Thousand by Sapor II_. All three pictures were signed, like
the _Feast of the Rose Garlands_ by little finely-dressed portraits of
the painter.

NÜRNBERG, _August_ 28, 1507.

I did not want to receive any money in advance on it till I began to
paint it, which, if God will, shall be the next thing after the Prince's
work;[20] for I prefer not to begin too many things at once and then I
do not become wearied. The Prince too will not be kept waiting, as he
would be if I were to paint his and your pictures at the same time, as I
had intended. At all events have confidence in me, for, so far as God
permits, I will yet according to my power make something that not many
men can equal.

Now many good nights to you. Given at Nürnberg on Augustine's day, 1507.


       *       *       *       *       *

NÜRNBERG, March 19, _1508_.

Dear Herr Jacob Heller. In a fortnight I shall be ready with Duke
Friedrich's work; after that I shall begin yours, and, as my custom is,
I will not paint any other picture till it is finished. I will be sure
carefully to paint the middle panel with my own hand; apart from that,
the outer sides of the wings are already sketched in--they will be in
stone colour; I have also had the ground laid. So much for news.

I wish you could see my gracious Lord's picture; I think it would please
you. I have worked at it straight on for a year and gained very little
by it; for I only get 280 Rhenish gulden for it, and I have spent all
that in the time.

       *       *       *       *       *

NÜRNBERG, _August 24, 1508_.

Now I commend myself to you. I want you also to know that in all my days
I have never begun any work that pleased me better than this picture of
yours which I am painting. Till I finish it I will not do any other
work; I am only sorry that the winter will so soon come upon me. The
days grow so short that one cannot do much.

I have still one thing to ask you; it is about the _MADONNA_[21] that
you saw at my house; if you know of any one near you who wants a picture
pray offer it to him. If a proper frame was put to it, it would be a
beautiful picture, and you know that it is nicely done. I will let you
have it cheap. I would not take less than fifty florins to paint one
like it. As it stands finished in the house it might be damaged for me,
so I would give you full power to sell it for me cheap for thirty
florins--indeed, rather than that it should not be sold I would even let
it go for twenty-five florins. I have certainly lost much food over it.

       *       *       *       *       *

Nürnberg, _November_ 4, 1508.

I am justly surprised at what you say in it about my last letter: seeing
that you can accuse me of not holding to my promises to you. From such a
slander each and everyone exempts me, for I bear myself, I trust, so as
to take my stand amongst other straightforward men. Besides I know well
what I have written and promised to you, and you know that in my
cousin's house I refused to promise you to make a good thing, because I
cannot. But to this I did pledge myself, that I would make something for
you that not many men can. Now I have given such exceeding pains to your
picture, that I was led to send you the aforesaid letter. I know that
when the picture is finished all artists will be well pleased with it.
It will not be valued at less than 300 florins. I would not paint
another like it for three times the price agreed, for I neglect myself
for it, suffer loss, and earn anything but thanks from you.

You further reproach me with having promised you that I would paint your
picture with the greatest possible care that ever I could. That I
certainly never said, or if I did I was out of my senses, for in my
whole lifetime I should scarcely finish it. With such extraordinary care
I can hardly finish a face in half a year; now your picture contains
fully 100 faces, not reckoning the drapery and landscape and other
things in it. Besides, who ever heard of making such a work for an
altar-piece? no one could see it. But I think it was thus that I wrote
to you--that I would paint the picture with great or more than ordinary
pains because of the time which you waited for me.

You need not look about for a purchaser for my Madonna, for the Bishop
of Breslau has given me seventy-two florins for it, so I have sold it
well. I commend myself to you. Given at Nürnberg in the year 1508, on
the Sunday after All Saints' Day.


       *       *       *       *       *

NÜRNBERG, _March_ 21, 1509.

I only care for praise from those who are competent to judge; and if
Martin Hess praises it to you, that may give you the more confidence.
You might also inquire from some of your friends who have seen it; they
will tell you how it is done. And if you do not like the picture when
you see it, I will keep it myself, for I have been begged to sell it and
make you another. But be that far from me! I will right honourably hold
with you to that which I have promised, taking you, as I do, for an
upright man.

       *       *       *       *       *

NÜRNBERG, _July_ 10, 1509.

As you go on to say that if you had not bargained with me for the
picture you would never do so now, and that I may keep it--I return you
this answer: to retain your friendship, if I had to suffer loss by the
picture, I would have done so, but now since you regret the whole
business and provoke me to keep the picture I will do so, and that
gladly, for I know how to get 100 florins more for it than you would
have given me. In future I would not take 400 florins to paint another
such as this.


NÜRNBERG, _July_ 24, 1509. DEAR HERR HELLER, I have read the letter
which you addressed to me. You write that you did not mean to decline
taking the picture from me. To that I can only say that I don't
understand what you do mean. When you write that if you had not ordered
the picture you would not make the bargain again, and that I may keep it
as long as I like and so on--I can only think that you have repented of
the whole business, so I gave you my answer in my last letter.

But, at Hans Imhof's persuasion, and having regard to the fact that you
ordered the picture of me, and also because I should prefer it to find a
place at Frankfurt rather than anywhere else, I have consented to send
it to you for 100 florins less than it might well have brought me.

I am reckoning that I shall thus render you a pleasing service;
otherwise I know well how I could draw far greater pecuniary advantage
from it, but your friendship is dearer to me than any such trifling sum
of money. I trust however that you would not wish me to suffer loss over
it when you are better off than I. Make therefore your own arrangements
and commands. Given at Nürnberg on Wine-Tuesday before James'.

NÜRNBERG, _August 26_, 1509. First my willing service to you, dear Herr
Jacob Heller. In accordance with your last letter I am sending the
picture well packed and seen to in all needful points. I have handed it
over to Hans Imhof and he has paid me another 100 florins. Yet believe
me, on my honour, I am still out of pocket over it besides losing the
time which I have bestowed upon it. Here in Nürnberg they were ready to
give 300 florins for it, which extra 100 florins would have done very
nicely for me had I not preferred to please and serve you by sending you
the picture. For I value the keeping of your friendship at more than 100
florins. I would also rather have this painting at Frankfurt than
anywhere else in all Germany.

If you think that I have behaved unfairly in not leaving the payment to
your own free-will, you must bear in mind that this would not have
happened if you had not written by Hans Imhof that I might keep the
picture as long as I liked. I should otherwise gladly have left it to
you even if thereby I had suffered a greater loss still. My impression
of you is that, supposing I had promised to make you something for about
ten florins and it cost me twenty, you yourself would not wish me to
lose by it. So pray be content with the fact that I took 100 florins
less from you than I might have got for the picture--for I tell you that
they wanted to take it from me, so to speak, by force.

I have painted it with great care, as you will see, using none but the
best colours I could get. It is painted with good ultramarine under, and
over, and over that again, some five or six times; and then after it was
finished I painted it again twice over so that it may last a long time.
If it is kept clean I know it will remain bright and fresh 500 years,
for it is not done as men are wont to paint. So have it kept clean and
don't let it be touched or sprinkled with holy water. I feel sure it
will not be criticised, or only for the purpose of annoying me; and I
answer for it it will please you well. No one shall ever compel me to
paint a picture again with so much labour. Herr Georg Tausy himself
besought me to paint him a Madonna in a landscape with the same care and
of the same size as this picture, and he would give me 400 florins for
it. That I flatly refused to do, for it would have made a beggar of me.
Of ordinary pictures I will in a year paint a pile which no one would
believe it possible for one man to do in the time. But very careful
nicety does not pay. So henceforth I shall stick to my engraving, and
had I done so before I should to-day have been a richer man by
1000 florins.

I may tell you also that, at my own expense, I have had for the middle
panel a new frame made which has cost me more than six florins. The old
one I have broken off, for the joiner had made it roughly; but I have
not had the other fastened on, for you wished it not to be. It would be
a very good thing to have the rims screwed on so that the picture may
not be shaken.

If anyone wants to see it, let it hang forward two or three finger
breadths, for then the light is good to see it by. And when I come over
to you, say in one, two, or three years' time, if the picture is
properly dry, it must be taken down and I will varnish it over anew with
some excellent varnish, which no one else can make; it will then last
100 years longer than it would before. But don't let anybody else
varnish it, for all other varnishes are yellow, and the picture would be
ruined for you. And if a thing, on which I have spent more than a year's
work, were ruined it would be grief to me. When you have it set up be
present yourself to see that it gets no harm. Deal carefully with it,
for you will hear from your own and from foreign painters how it
is done.

Give my greeting to your painter Martin Hess. My wife asks you for a
_Trinkgeld_, but that is as you please, I screw you no higher, &c. And
now I hold myself commended to you. Read by the sense, for I write in
haste. Given at Nürnberg on Sunday after Bartholomew's, 1509.

NÜRNBERG, _October 12_, 1509.

DEAR HERR JACOB HELLER, I am glad to hear that my picture pleases you,
so that my labour has not been bestowed in vain. I am also happy that
you are content about the payment--and that rightly, for I could have
got 100 florins more for it than you have given me. But I preferred to
let you have it, hoping, as I do, thereby to retain you as my friend
down in your parts.

My wife thanks you very much for the present you have made her; she will
wear it in your honour. My young brother also thanks you for the two
florins _Trinkgeld_ you sent him. And now I too thank you myself for all
the honour &c. In reply to your question how the picture should be
adorned I send you a slight design of what I should do if it were mine,
but you must do what you like. Now, many happy times to you. Given on
Friday before Gall's, 1509. ALBRECHT DÜRER.

Dürer must have commenced the All Saints picture almost immediately
after having finished Heller's _Coronation of the Virgin_. Perhaps he
had practically accepted the commission from Matthsus Landauer before he
wrote to Heller that he would never again undertake a picture with so
much work and labour in it, for he afterwards was as good as his word.
This new work was for the chapel of an almshouse founded by Landauer and
Erasmus Schiltkrot for twelve old men citizens of Nuremberg. The
original frame designed by Dürer is now in the Germanic Museum, though a
copy has replaced the picture. After the completion of the _Trinity and
All Saints_, Dürer apparently carried out his threat and gave up
painting for a dozen years, devoting his energies more especially to a
magnificent series of engravings on copper. He also completed his series
of wood engravings and published them with text, and produced a number
of single cuts, many of them among his very best, like the _Assumption
of the Magdalen_, and the _St. Christopher_, here reproduced.

[Illustration: ST. CHRISTOPHER Woodcut, B. 103]

[Illustration: THE ASSUMPTION OF THE MAGDALEN Woodcut, B. 121]


In 1514 his mother died. He has recounted her death twice over, as he
did that of his father already cited; for the single surviving leaf of
the "other book" happens to contain this also. In the briefer
chronicle he says:

Two years after my Father's death (i.e., 1504) I took my Mother into my
house, for she had nothing more to live upon. So she dwelt with me till
the year 1513, as they reckon it; when, early one Tuesday morning, she
was taken suddenly and deadly ill, and thus she lay a whole year long.
And a whole year after the day she was first taken ill, she received the
holy sacraments and christianly passed away two hours before
nightfall--it was on a Tuesday, the 17th day of May in the year 1514. I
said the prayers for her myself. God Almighty be gracious to her.

The account in the "other book" is more circumstantial:

Now you must know that, in the year 1513, on a Tuesday before Rogation
week, my poor afflicted Mother, whom two years after my Father's death,
as she was quite poor, I took into my house, and after she had lived
nine years with me, was one morning suddenly taken so deadly ill that we
broke into her chamber; otherwise, as she could not open, we had not
been able to come to her. So we carried her into a room downstairs and
she received both sacraments, for every one thought she would die,
because ever since my Father's death she had never been in good health.

Her most frequent habit was to go much to the church. She always
upbraided me well if I did not do right, and she was ever in great
anxiety about my sins and those of my brother. And if I went out or in
her saying was always, "Go in the name of Christ." She constantly gave
us holy admonitions with deep earnestness and she always had great
thought for our souls' health. I cannot enough praise her good works and
the compassion she showed to all, as well as her high character.

This my pious Mother bare and brought up eighteen children; she often
had the plague and many other severe and strange illnesses, and she
suffered great poverty, scorn, contempt, mocking words, terrors, and
great adversities. Yet she bore no malice.

In 1514 (as they reckon it), on a Tuesday--it was the 17th day of
May--two hours before nightfall and more than a year after the
above-mentioned day in which she was taken ill, my Mother, Barbara
Dürer, christianly passed away, with all the sacraments, absolved by
papal power from pain and sin. But she first--gave me her blessing and
wished me the peace of God, exhorting me very beautifully to keep myself
from sin. She asked also to drink S. John's blessing, which she
then did.

She feared Death much, but she said that to come before God she feared
not. Also she died hard, and I marked that she saw something dreadful,
for she asked for the holy-water, although, for a long time, she had not
spoken. Immediately afterwards her eyes closed over. I saw also how
Death smote her two great strokes to the heart, and how she closed mouth
and eyes and departed with pain. I repeated to her the prayers. I felt
so grieved for her that I cannot express it. God be merciful to her.

To speak of God was ever her greatest delight, and gladly she beheld the
honour of God. She was in her sixty-third year when she died and I have
buried her honourably according to my means.

[Illustration: "1514, on Oculi Sunday (March 19). This is Albrecht
Dürer's mother; she was 63 years of age." After her death he added in
ink, "And departed this life in the year 1514 on Tuesday Holy Cross Day
(May 16) at two o'clock in the night" Charcoal-drawing. Royal Print
Room, Berlin]

God, the Lord, grant me that I too may attain a happy end, and that God
with his heavenly host, my Father, Mother, relations, and friends may
come to my death. And may God Almighty give unto us eternal life. Amen.

And in her death she looked much sweeter than when she was still alive.


Such was the home life of this great artist; and from homes presenting
variations on this type proceeded probably all the giants of the
Renaissance, whose work we think so surpasses in effort, in scope, and
in efficiency, all that has been achieved since. This Christianity was
unreformed; it existed side by side with dissolute monasteries and
worldly cynical prelates, surrounded by sordid hucksters and brutal
soldiery. Turn to Erasmus' portrait of Dean Colet, and we see that it
existed in London, among the burghers, even in the household of a Lord
Mayor. We are almost forced on the reflection that nothing that has
succeeded to it has produced men equal to those who sprang immediately
out of it.

However much and however justly the assurance of Christian assertion in
the realm of theory may be condemned, the success of the Christian life,
wherever it has approached a conscientious realisation, stands out among
the multitudinous forms of its corruption; and those who catch sight of
it are almost bound to exclaim in the spirit of Shakespeare's:

  "How far that little candle throws his beams!
   So shines a good deed in a naughty world."

I have heard a Royal Academician remark how even the poorest copies and
reproductions of the masterpieces of Greek sculpture retain something of
the charm and dignity of the original: whereas the quality of modern
work is quickly lost in a reduction or even in a cast. I believe this
may be best explained by the fact that the chief research of the Greek
artist was to establish a beautiful proportion between the parts and the
whole; and that fidelity to nature, dexterity of execution, the
symbolism of the given subject, and even the finish of the surfaces,
were always when necessary sacrificed to this. Whereas in modern work,
even when the proportions of the whole are considered, which is rarely
the case, they are almost without exception treated as secondary to one
or more of these other qualities. Is it not possible that Jesus in his
life laid down a proportion, similar to that of Greek masterpieces for
the body, between the efforts and intentions which create the soul and
pour forth its influence?--a proportion which, when it has been once
thoroughly apprehended, may be subtly varied to suit new circumstances,
and produce a similar harmony in spheres of activity with which Jesus
himself had not even a distant connection? We often find that the rudest
copies from copies of his actual life are like the biscuit china Venus
of Milo sold by the Italian pedlar, which still dimly reflects the main
beauties of the marble in the Louvre.


In 1512 Kaiser Maximilian came to Nuremberg, and soon afterward Dürer
began working for him. The employment he found for the greatest artist
north of the Alps was sufficiently ludicrous; and perhaps Dürer showed
that he felt this, by treating the major portion as studio work; though,
no doubt, the impatience of his imperial patron in a measure
necessitated the employment of many aids.

It is difficult to do justice to the fine qualities of Maximilian.
Perhaps he was not really so eccentric as he seems. The oddity of his
doings and sayings may be perhaps more properly attributed to his having
been a thorough German. The genial men of that nation, even to-day and
since it has come more into line in point of culture with France and
England, are apt to have a something ludicrous or fantastic clinging to
them; even Goethe did not wholly escape. Maximilian was strong in body
and in mind, and brimming over with life and interest. We are told that
when a young man he climbed the tower of Ulm Cathedral by the help of
the iron rings that served to hold the torches by which it was
illuminated on high days and holidays. Again we read: "A secretary had
embezzled 3000 gulden. Maximilian sent for him and asked what should be
done to a confidential servant who had robbed his master. The secretary
recommended the gallows. 'Nay, nay,' the Emperor said, and tapped him on
the shoulder, 'I cannot spare you yet'"; an anecdote which reveals more
good sense and a larger humanity than either monarchs or others are apt
to have at hand on such vexing occasions. Thausing says admirably, "A
happy imagination and a great idea of his exalted position made up to
him for any want of success in his many wars and political
negotiations," and elsewhere calls him the last of the "nomadic
emperors," who spent their lives travelling from palace to palace and
from city to city, beseeching, cajoling, or threatening their subjects
into obedience. He himself said, "I am a king of kings. If I give an
order to the princes of the empire, they obey if they please, if they do
not please they disobey." He was even then called "the last of the
knights," because he had an amateurish passion for a chivalry that was
already gone, and was constantly attempting to revive its costumes and
ordinances. Then, like certain of the Pharaohs of Egypt, he was pleased
to read of, and see illustrated by brush and graver, victories he had
never won, and events in which he had not shone. He himself dictated or
planned out those wonderful lives or allegories of a life which might
have been his. It was on such a work of futile self-glorification that
he now wished to employ Dürer.

The novelty of the art of printing, and the convenience to a nomadic
emperor of a monument that could be rolled up, suggested the form of
this last absurdity--a monster woodcut in 92 blocks which, when joined
together, produced a picture 9 feet by 10, representing what had at
first been intended as an imitation of a Roman triumphal arch; but so
much information about so many more or less dubious ancestors, &c., had
to be conveyed by quaint and conceited inventions, that in the end it
was rather comparable to the confusion of a Juggernaut car, which
never-the-less imposes by a barbarous wealth and magnificence of
fantastic detail. And to this was to be joined another monster,
representing on several yards of paper a triumphal procession of the
emperor, escorted by his family, and the virtues of himself and
ancestors, &c. Such is fortune's malice that Dürer, who alone or almost
alone had conceived of the simplicity of true dignity and the beauty of
choice proportions and propriety, should have been called upon by his
only royal patron to superintend a production wherein the rank and
flaccid taste of the time ran riot. The absurdity, barbarism, and
grotesque quaintness of this monument to vanity cannot be laid
exclusively at Maximilian's door; for the architecture, particularly of
the fountains, in Altdorfer's or Manuel's designs, and in those of many
others, reveals a like wantonness in delighted elaboration of the
impossible and unstructural. The scholars and pedantic posturers who
surrounded the emperor no doubt improved and abetted. Probably it was
this Juggernaut element, inherited from the Gothic gargoyle, which
Goethe censured when he said that "Dürer was retarded by a gloomy
fantasy devoid of form or foundation." Perhaps this was written at a
period when the great critic was touched with that resentment against
the Middle Ages begotten by the feeling that his own art was still
encumbered by its irrational and confused fantasy. We who certainly are
able to take a more ample view of Dürer's situation in the art of his
times, see that he is rather characterised by an effort which lay in
exactly the same direction as that of Goethe's own; and while
sympathising with the irritation expressed, can also admire the great
engraver for having freed himself in so large a degree from the
influence of fantasy "devoid of form and foundation," even as the
justest Shakespearean criticism admires the degree in which the author
of Othello freed himself from Elizabethan conceits. It is difficult to
appreciate the difference for a great artist in having the general taste
with rather than against the purer tendencies of his art. Probably the
Greeks and certain Italians owe their freedom from eccentricity, in a
very large measure, to this cause. But I intend to treat these questions
more at length in dealing with Dürer's character as an artist and
creator. It was necessary to touch on the subject here, because
Maximilian embodies the peculiar and fantastic aftergrowth, which
sprouted up in some northern minds from the old stumps remaining from
the great mediaeval forest of thoughts and sentiments which had
gradually fallen into decay. All around, even in the same minds, waved
the saplings of the New Birth when these old stumps put forth their so
fantastic second youth, seeming for a time to share in the new vigour,
though they were never to attain expansion and maturity.


Thausing shrewdly remarks, "This love of fame and naïve delight in the
glorification of his own person are further proofs that the Emperor Max
was the true child of his age. No one was so akin to him in this respect
as the painter of his choice, Albert Dürer." This last is a reference to
those strutting, finely-dressed portraits of the artist which stand
beside the entablatures bearing his name, that of his birthplace, the
date, &c., in four out of the five most elaborate pictures which Dürer
painted. But I would like to suggest that probably this apparent
resemblance to his royal patron is not thus altogether well accounted
for. May there not have been something of Homer's invocation of his
Muse, or of that sincerity which makes Dante play such a large part in
the "Divine Comedy"?--something resembling the ninth verse of the
Apocalypse: "I John, who also am your brother and companion in
tribulation ... was in the isle that is called Patmos ... and heard
behind me a great voice as of a trumpet, saying...." Those little
strutting portraits of himself sprung, perhaps, out of this relation to
those about him of the man by native gift very superior, who is not made
contemptuous or inclined to emphasise his isolation, but who is ever
ready to say, "It is I, be not afraid." The man who painted and
conceived this is the man you know, whom you have admired because he
carried his fine clothes so well in your streets. Here I am even in the
midst of this massacre of saints, I have conceived it all and taken a
whole year to elaborate it; and since you see me looking so cool and
well-dressed in the midst of it, you need not be offended or
overwhelmed. Such is ever the naïvety of great souls among those whose
culture is primitive. It is like the boasted bravery of the eldest among
little children, wholly an act of kindness and consideration, not a
selfish vaunt. That they should be admired and trusted is for them a
foregone conclusion; and when they call on that admiration and trust,
they do it merely for the sake of those whom they would encourage and
console, for whose sakes they will even hide whatever in them is really
unworthy of such admiration and such trust.

We do not easily realise the corporate character of life in those days.
Very much that seems to us quaint and absurd drew proper significance
from the practical solidarity that then obtained; what appears to us a
strange vanity or parade may have appeared to them respect for the
guild, the town, the country to which they belonged. Dürer signed
"Noricus,"--of Nuremberg;--and preferred its little lucrative
citizenship to those more remunerative offered by Venice and Antwerp.
"Let all the world behold how fine the artist of Nuremberg is." Just as
he says, "God gave me diligence," so it seems natural to him to
attribute a large half of his fame and glory to his native town. In many
respects the great man of those days felt less individual than an
ordinary man does now; for classes did not so merge one into the other,
and their character was more distinct and authoritative. The little
portrait of himself added to those wonderful _tours-de-force_ made them
something that belonged to Nuremberg and to Germans. Even so it would be
with some treasure cup, all gold and jewels, belonging to a village
schoolmaster, which none of his neighbours dared look at save in his
presence; for he was the son of a great baron whom his elder brothers
robbed of everything except this, and his presence among them alone made
them able to feel that it really belonged to their village, was theirs
in a fashion. These suggestions will not, I think, appear fantastic to
those who ponder on the apparently vainglorious address of much of
Dürer's work, and keep in mind such a passage from his writings as this:

"I would gladly give everything I know to the light, for the good of
cunning students who prize such art more highly than silver and gold. I
further admonish all who have any knowledge in these matters that they
write it down. Do it truly and plainly, not toilsomely and at great
length, for the sake of those who seek and are glad to learn, to the
great honour of God and your own praise. If I then set something
burning, and ye all add to it skilful furthering, a blaze may in time
arise therefrom which shall shine throughout the whole world."[22]

But still, even if such considerations may bring many to accept my
explanation of this contrast, I do not want to over-insist on it. I
think that wherever men have been superior in character, as well as in
gift or rank, to those about them, something of this spirit of the good
eldest child in a family is bound to be manifested. But just as such a
child may be veritably boastful and vain at other times,--however purely
now and then, in crises of apparent difficulty or danger, its vaunt and
strut may spring from real kindness and a considerate wish to inspire
courage in the younger and weaker;--so doubtless there was a
haughtiness, sometimes a fault, in Dürer as in Milton.


But we have been led a long way from Kaiser Max and his portable
monument. The reader will re-picture how the court arrived at Nuremberg
like a troop of actors, whose performance was really their life, and was
taken quite seriously and admired heartily by the good and solid
burghers. This old comedy, often farce, entitled "The Importance of
Authority," is no longer played with such a telling make-up, or with
such showy properties as formerly, but is still as popular as ever; as
we Londoners know, since the last few years have given us perhaps an
over-dose of processions, illuminations, &c. &c. In this case the chief
actors in the show piece were men of mark of an exceptionally
entertaining character; with many of them Dürer and Pirkheimer were soon
on the best of terms.

Foremost, Johann Stabius, the companion of the Emperor for sixteen years
without intermission in war and in peace, who was associated with Dürer
to provide the written accompaniment for the monument; a literary
jack-of-all-trades of ready wit and lively presence. A contemporary
records: "The emperor took constant pleasure in the strange things which
Stabius devised, and esteemed him so highly that he instituted a new
chair of Astronomy and Mathematics for him at Vienna," in the Collegium
Poetarum et Mathematicorum founded in the year 1501, under the
presidency of Conrad Celtes.

In all probability there would have been besides the learned protonotary
of the supreme court, Ulrich Varenbuler, often mentioned as a friend in
the letters of Erasmus and Pirkheimer, and the subject of the largest of
Dürer's portrait woodcuts, which shows him to us some ten years later,
still a handsome trenchant personality, with a liking for fine clothes,
and the self-reliant expression of a man who is conscious that the
thought he takes for the morrow is not likely to be in vain.

It may be that Dürer then met for the first time too the Imperial
architect, Johannes Tscherte, for whom he afterwards drew two armillary
spheres, to take the place of those on which he had cast ridicule; for
Pirkheimer wrote to Tscherte: "I wish you could have heard how Albert
Dürer spoke to me about your plate, in which there is not one good
stroke, and laughed at me. What honour it will do us when it makes its
appearance in Italy, and the clever painters there see it!" To which
Tscherte replied: "Albert Dürer knows me well, he is also well aware
that I love art, though I am no expert at it; let him if he likes
despise my plate, I never pretended it was a work of art." And in a
later letter he speaks "of the armillary spheres drawn by our common
friend Albert Dürer." He was one of those who helped Dürer in his
mathematical and geometrical studies; and he, like Pirkheimer, dedicated
books to him. Although the mathematics of those times are hardly
considered seriously nowadays, they then ranked with verse-making as a
polite accomplishment, and had all the charm of novelty. Dürer, no
doubt, had some gift that way, as he seems to have made a hobby of them
during many years. Besides those who came in the Imperial troop, Dürer
had many opportunities of meeting men of this kind, for such were
constantly passing through Nuremberg. Dürer has left us what are
evidently portraits of some whose names are lost: of others we have both
name and likeness, among them the English ambassador, Lord Morley.

In 1515 "Rafahel de' Urbin, who is held in such high esteem by the Pope,
he made these naked figures and sent them to Albrecht Dürer at Nuremberg
to show him his hand." This shows us that travellers through Nuremberg
sometimes brought with them something of the breath of the great
Renaissance in Italy. The drawing, which bears the above inscription in
Dürer's own handwriting on the back, is a fine one in red sanguine,
representing the same male model in two different poses, in the
Albertina. Raphael had, we are told by Lodovico Dolce, drawings,
engravings, and woodcuts of Dürer's hanging in his studio; and Vasari
tells us he said: "If Dürer had been acquainted with the antique he
would have surpassed us all." The Nuremberg master, in return for the
drawing, sent a portrait of himself to Raphael, which has unfortunately
been lost. There appears to have been quite a rage for Dürer's work in
Italy, and above all at Rome: we know that it provoked Michael Angelo to
remonstrate; probably on many lips it was merely a vaunt of superior
knowledge or taste, as rapture over the conjectural friends or aids of a
great quatrocentist is to-day. The tokens of esteem which he won from
distinguished travellers, and this drawing which reached him testifying
to the interest and friendship felt for him by the Italian whose fame
was most widespread, must have been full of encouragement, and have
compensated in some measure for the feeling he had that he was only a
hanger-on at Nuremberg, though he might still have been "a gentleman" in
Venice. Yet Nuremberg itself furnished many desirable or notable
acquaintances. There was Dürer's neighbour, the jurist, Lazarus
Spengler; later the most prominent reformer in Nuremberg, who in 1520
dedicated to him his "Exhortation and Instruction towards the leading of
a virtuous life," addressing him as "his particular and confidential
friend and brother," whom he considers, "without any flattery, to be a
man of understanding, inclined to honesty and every virtue, who has
often in our daily familiar intercourse been to me in no common degree a
pattern and an example to a more circumspect way of life;" whom,
finally, he asks to improve his little book to the best of his ability.
Dürer had before this rendered him service in designing his coat of arms
for a woodcut and furnishing a frontispiece to his translation of
Eusebius' "Life of St. Jerome." He was, moreover, a poet, author of "an
often-translated song"; he wrote verses to discourage Dürer from
spending his time in producing the doggerel rhymes which at one time he
was moved to attempt,--framing poems of didactic import, and publishing
one or two on separate sheets with a woodcut at the top, in spite of the
inappreciative reception given to them by Spengler and Pirkheimer.
Besides Spengler, there were "Christopher Kress, a soldier, a traveller,
and a town councillor;" and Caspar Nützel, of one of the oldest
families, and Captain-general of the town bands. Both of these went with
Dürer to the Diet at Augsburg in 1518. The martial Paumgartners were two
brothers for whom Dürer painted the early triptych at Munich (see page
204). One of them is supposed to figure as St. George in the All Saints
picture. Lastly, there were the Imhoffs, the merchant princes of
Nuremberg, as the Fuggers were at Augsburg. A son of the family married
Felicitas, Pirkheimer's favourite daughter, in 1515, and Dürer stood
godfather to their little Hieronymus in 1518. It is easy to imagine that
there was many a supper and dinner, when a thousand strange subjects
were even more strangely discussed; when Pirkheimer now made them roar
with a hazardous joke, or again dumbfounded them with Greek quotations
pompously done into German, or made their flesh creep and the
superstitions of their race stir in them by mysteriously enlarging on
his astrological lore,--for to his many weaknesses he added this, which
was then scarcely recognised as one.


In spite of all his wealthy and influential friends, Dürer found it
difficult to get the emperor to indemnify him for his labours, though
the Town Council had received a royal mandate as early as 1512 from
Landau. The following is an extract:

Whereas our and the Empire's trusty Albrecht Dürer has devoted much zeal
to the drawings he has made for us at our command, and has promised
henceforth ever to do the like, whereat we have received particular
pleasure; and whereas we are informed on all hands that the said Dürer
is famous in the art of painting before all other Masters: we have
therefore felt ourself moved, to further him with our especial grace,
and we accordingly desire you with earnest solicitude, for the affection
you bear us, to make the said Dürer free of all town imposts, having
regard to our grace and to his famous art, which should fairly turn to
his profit with you, &c.

The town councillors sent some of their principal members to treat with
Dürer, and he resigned his claim "in order to honour the said
councillors and to maintain their privileges, usages, and rights." In
1515 the drawings for the "Gate of Honour" were finished, and Dürer
began to press again for pay. Stabius had promised to speak for him, but
nothing had come of it. Albrecht thought Christoph Kress could be of
more avail; so he wrote to him:

(No date, but certainly 1515). DEAR HERR KRESS, The first thing I have
to ask you is to find out from Herr Stabius whether he has done anything
in my business with his Imperial Majesty, and how it stands. Let me know
this in the next letter you write to my Lords. Should it happen that
Herr Stabius has made no move in the matter, ... Point out in particular
to his Imperial Majesty that I have served his Majesty for three years,
spending my own money in so doing, and if I had not been diligent the
ornamental work would have been nowise so successfully finished. I
therefore pray his Imperial Majesty to recompense me with the 100
florins--all which you know well how to do. You must know also that I
made many other drawings for his Majesty besides the "Triumph."

Not long after this, Maximilian, by a _Privilegium_ (dated Innsbruck,
September 6, 1515), settled an annual pension of 100 florins on
the artist.

We Maximilian, by God's grace, &c., make openly known by this letter for
ourself and our successors in the Empire, and to each and every one to
wit, that we have regarded and considered the art, skill, and
intelligence for which our and the Empire's trusty and well-beloved
Albrecht Dürer has been praised before us, and likewise the pleasing,
honest and useful services which he has often and willingly done for us
and the Holy Empire and also for our own person in many ways, and which
he still daily does and henceforward may and shall do: and that we
therefore, of set purpose, after mature deliberation, and with the full
knowledge of ourself and the Princes and Estates of the Empire, have
graciously promised and granted to this same Dürer what we herewith and
by virtue of this letter make known:

_That is to say_, that one hundred florins Rhenish shall be yielded,
given, and paid by the honourable, our and the Empire's trusty and
well-beloved Burgomaster and Council of the town of Nürnberg and their
successors unto the said Albrecht Dürer, against his quittance, all his
life long and no longer, yearly and in every year, on our behalf, out of
the customary town contributions which the said Burgomaster and Council
of the town of Nürnberg are bound to yield and pay, yearly and in every
year, into our Treasury. And whatever the said Burgomaster and Council
of the town of Nürnberg and their successors shall yield, give, and pay
to the said Albrecht Dürer, as stands written above, against his
quittance, the same sum shall be accepted and reckoned to them as paid
and yielded for the customary town contributions which they, as stands
written above, are bound to pay into our Treasury, as if they had paid
the same into our own hands and received our quittance therefor, and no
harm or detriment shall in anywise be done therefor unto them or their
successors by us or our successors in the Empire. Whereof this letter,
sealed with our affixed seal, is witness.

Given, &c.

Thus Dürer became Court painter: in return for his salary he had to
work. As soon as the "Gate of Honour" was finished, there was the "Car
of Triumph" to be taken in hand, the first sketch for it (now in the
Albertina) having already been made about 1514-15. In December 1514
Schönsperger, the Augsburg printer, printed a splendid "Book of Hours"
for Maximilian. The type was specially made for the book, and only a few
copies were printed, some on fine vellum with large margins. One copy
which Maximilian intended for his own use was sent to Dürer that he
might decorate the margins with pen-drawings in various coloured inks.
Of this work there exist forty-three pages by Dürer himself and eight by
Cranach at Munich, and at Besançon thirty-five pages by Burgkmair,
Altdorfer, Baldung Grien, and Hans Dürer. Marvellously deft and
light-handed as are Dürer's freehand arabesques, embellished by racy
sketches of which these borders consist, they are nevertheless touched
with a like unsatisfactory character with the other works undertaken for
Maximilian, and are almost as far removed from the spirit and
performance of the best period for this kind of work, as is the
_Triumphal Arch_ from that of Titus.

Dürer was also employed on another woodcut representing a long row of
saintly ancestors of this eccentric sovereign. He accompanied Caspar
Nützel and Lazarus Spengler, the representatives of Nuremberg, to the
Diet of Augsburg, and there made some drawings of his royal patron, on
one of which is written, "This is my dear Prince Max, whom I, Albrecht
Dürer, drew at Augsburg in his little room upstairs in the palace, in
the year 1518, on the Monday after St. John the Baptist's day." (_See
opposite_.) And Melanchthon narrates that "once Max himself took the
charcoal in hand to make his mind clear to his trusty Albert, and was
vexed to find that the charcoal kept breaking short in his hand when
Dürer said; 'Most gracious emperor, I would not that your Majesty should
draw so well as I do!' by which he meant, 'I am practised in this, and
it is my province; thou, Emperor, hast harder tasks and another

[Illustration: _By permission of Messrs. Braun, Clément & Co.
Dornach._--"This is the Emperor Maximilian, whose likeness I, Albrecht
Dürer, have taken, at Augsburg, high up in the palace in his little
chamber, in the year of Grace 1518, on Monday after St. John the
Baptist's Day" Charcoal-Drawing. Albertina, Vienna]


A charming letter from Charitas Pirkheimer gives us a little sunlit
glimpse of the tone of Dürer's lighter hours.

The prudent and wise Masters Caspar Nützel, Lazarus Spengler, and
Albrecht Dürer, for the time being at Augsburg, our gracious Masters and
good friends.


As a friendly greeting, prudent, wise, gracious Masters and especially
good friends, cousins, and wellwishers, I desire every good thing for
you, from the Highest Good. I received with great pleasure your friendly
letter and its news of a kind suited to my order, or rather my trade;
and I read it with such great devotion that more than once tears ran
down my eyes over it--truly rather tears of laughter than of sorrow. I
consider it a subject for great thankfulness that, with such important
business and so much gaiety on hand, your Wisdoms do not forget me, but
find time to instruct me, poor little nun, about the monastic life
whereof you now have a clear reflection before your eyes. I conclude
from this that doubtless some good spirit drove you, my gracious and
dear Masters, to Augsburg, so that you might learn from the example of
the free Swabian spirits how to instruct and govern the poor imprisoned

For since our trusty Master Warden (Caspar Nützel), as a lover of the
Church, likes to help in a thorough reformation, he should first behold
a pattern of holy observance in the Swabian League. Let Master Lazarus
Spengler, too, inform himself well about the apostolic mode of common
life, so that at the annual audit he may be able to give us and others
counsel and guidance, how we may run through everything, that nought
remain over. And Master Albrecht Dürer, also, who is such a genius and
master at drawing, he may very carefully inspect the stately buildings,
and then if some day we want to alter our choir he will know how to give
us advice and help in making ample slide-windows (? blinds), so that our
eyes may not be quite blinded.

I shall not further trouble you, however, to bring us music to learn to
sing by notes, for our beer is now so very sour that I fear the dregs
might stick fast among the four reeds or voices, and produce such
strange sounds that the dogs would fly out of the church. But I must
humbly pray you not quite to wear out your eyes over the black and white
magpies, so as no longer to know the little grey wolves at Nürnberg. I
have heard much of the sharp-witted Swabians all my life, but it would
be well if we learnt more from them, now that they are so wisely
labouring with his Imperial Majesty to save the Apostolic life from
being done away with. It is easy to see what very different lovers of
the Church they are from our Masters here.

Pardon me, my dear and gracious Masters, this my playful letter. It is
all done _in caritate--summa summarum_; and the end of it is that I
should rejoice at your speedy return in health and happiness with the
glad accomplishment of the business committed to you. For this I and my
sisters heartily pray God day and night; still we cannot carry it
through alone, so I counsel you to entreat the pious and pure hearts (of
Augsburg) to sing in high quavers that thereby things may speed well.
And now many happy times to you!

Given at Nürnberg on September 3, 1518.

SISTER CHARITAS, unprofitable Abbess of S. Clara's at Nürnberg.

Dürer returned with a letter to the Town Council of Nürnberg, from which
the following extract is taken:

Honourable, trusty, and well-beloved, Whereas you are bound to pay us on
next St. Martin's day year a remainder, to wit 200 florins Rhenish, out
of the accustomed town contribution which you are wont to render into
our and the Empire's treasury....We earnestly charge you to deliver and
pay the said 200 florins, accepting our quittance therefor, unto our and
the Empire's trusty and well-beloved Albrecht Dürer, our painter, on
account of his honest services, willingly rendered to us at our command
for our "Car of Triumph" and in other ways; and, at the said time, these
200 florins shall be deducted for you from the accustomed town
contribution. Thus you will perform our earnest desire.

Given, &c.

Dürer procured a receipt for the 200 florins, signed by the emperor
himself. But before "next St. Martin's day year," Maximilian was dead,
and the 200 florins no longer his to dispose of, being due to the new
Emperor Charles V. The municipal authorities of Nürnberg refused to pay
until his Privilegium had been confirmed by Maximilian's successor.

Dürer wrote the following letter to the Council:

NÜRNBERG, April 27, 1519.

Prudent, honourable and wise, gracious, dear Lords. Your Honours are
aware that, at the Diet lately holden by his Imperial Roman Majesty, our
most gracious lord of very praiseworthy memory, I obtained a gracious
assignment from his Imperial Majesty of 200 florins from the yearly
payable town contributions of Nürnberg. This assignment was granted to
me, after many applications and much trouble, in return for the zealous
work and labour, which, for a long time previously, I had devoted to his
Majesty. And he sent you order and command to that effect, signed with
his accustomed signature, and quittance in all form, which quittance,
duly sealed, is in my hands.

Now I rest humbly confident that your Honours will graciously remember
me as your obedient burgher, who has employed much time in the service
and work of his Imperial Majesty, our most rightful Lord, with but small
recompense, and has thereby lost both profit and advantage in other
ways. And therefore I trust that you will now deliver me these 200
florins to his Imperial Majesty's order and quittance, that so I may
receive a fitting reward and satisfaction for my care, pains, and
work--as, no doubt, was his Imperial Majesty's intention.

But seeing that some Emperor or King might in the future claim these 200
florins from your Honours, or might not be willing to spare them, but
might some day demand them back again from me, I am, therefore, willing
to relieve your Honours and the town of this chance, by appointing and
mortgaging, as security and pledge therefor, my tenement situated at the
corner under the Veste, and which belonged to my late father, that so
your Honours may suffer neither prejudice nor loss thereby. Thus am I
ready to serve your Honours, my gracious rulers and Lords.

Your Wisdoms' willing burgher, ALBRECHT DÜRER.

[Illustration: FREDERICK THE WISE. Silver-point drawing, British

Dürer next wrote "to the honourable, most learned Master Georg Spalatin,
Chaplain to my most gracious lord, Duke Friedrich, the Elector"
of Saxony.

The letter is undated, but clearly belongs to the early part of the year

Most worthy and dear Master, I have already sent you my thanks in the
short letter, for then I had only read your brief note. It was not till
afterwards, when the bag in which the little book was wrapped was turned
inside out, that I for the first time found the real letter in it, and
learnt that it was my most gracious Lord himself who sent me Luther's
little book. So I pray your worthiness to convey most emphatically my
humble thanks to his Electoral Grace, and in all humility to beseech his
Electoral Grace to take the praiseworthy Dr. Martin Luther under his
protection for the sake of Christian truth. For that is of more
importance to us than all the power and riches of this world; because
all things pass away with time, Truth alone endures for ever.

God helping me, if ever I meet Dr. Martin Luther, I intend to draw a
careful portrait of him from the life and to engrave it on copper, for a
lasting remembrance of a Christian man who helped me out of great
distress. And I beg your worthiness to send me for my money anything new
that Dr. Martin may write.

As to Spengler's "Apology for Luther," about which you write, I must
tell you that no more copies are in stock; but it is being reprinted at
Augsburg, and I will send you some copies as soon as they are ready. But
you must know that, though the book was printed here, it is condemned in
the pulpit as heretical and meet to be burnt, and the man who published
it anonymously is abused and defamed. It is reported that Dr. Eck wanted
to burn it in public at Ingolstadt, as was done to Dr. Reuchlin's book.

With this letter I send for my most gracious lord three impressions of a
copper-plate of my most gracious lord of Mainz, which I engraved at his
request. I sent the copper-plate with 200 impressions as a present to
his Electoral Grace, and he graciously sent me in return 200 florins in
gold and 20 ells of damask for a coat. I joyfully and thankfully
accepted them, especially as I was in want of them at that time.

His Imperial Majesty also, of praiseworthy memory, who died too soon for
me, had graciously made provision for me, because of the great and
long-continued labour, pains, and care, which I spent in his service.
But now the Council will no longer pay me the 100 florins, which I was
to have received every year of my life from the town taxes, and which
was yearly paid to me during his Majesty's lifetime. So I am to be
deprived of it in my old age and to see the long time, trouble, and
labour all lost which I spent for his Imperial Majesty. As I am losing
my sight and freedom of hand my affairs do not look well. I don't care
to withhold this from you, kind and trusted Sir.

If my gracious lord remembers his debt to me of the staghorns, may I ask
your Worship to keep him in mind of them, so that I may get a fine pair.
I shall make two candlesticks of them.

I send you here two little prints of the Cross from a plate engraved in
gold. One is for your Worship. Give my service to Hirschfeld and
Albrecht Waldner. Now, your Worship, commend me faithfully to my most
gracious lord, the Elector.

Your willing ALBRECHT DÜRER at Nürnberg.


[Footnote 20: _The Massacre of the Ten Thousand Saints._]

[Footnote 21: Supposed to be the _Madonna with the Iris_.]

[Footnote 22: "Literary Remains of Albrecht Dürer," p. 178.]

[Footnote 23: The soil about Nürnberg is sandy.]




But while Dürer was thus busily at work or dunning his great debtors,
Luther had appeared. In 1517 he nailed his ninety-five theses to the
door of Wittenberg church, and Cardinal Caietan by the unlucky Leo X.
was poured like oil upon the fire which they had lighted. Luther had
been summoned to meet the Cardinal at the Diet of Augsburg, where Dürer
went to see Maximilian, though he only arrived there after our friends
from Nuremberg had departed. However, Luther passed through Nuremberg on
foot, and borrowed a coat of a friend there in order to figure with
decency before the Diet. Yet Dürer probably did not meet him, although
the words in the letter to George Spalatin, quoted above, "If ever I
meet Dr. Martin Luther, I intend to draw a careful portrait of him and
engrave it on copper," do not forbid the possibility of this early
meeting before the Reformer had become so famous. Next the Pope tried to
soothe by sending Miltitz with flatteries and promises--a man that could
smile and weep to order, but who succeeded neither with the Elector
Frederic, nor with Luther, nor with Germany. At Nuremberg the preacher
Wenzel Link soon formed a little reformed congregation, to which Dürer,
Pirkheimer, Spengler, Nützel, Scheurl, Ebner, Holzschurher, and others
belonged. We have already seen how, soon after this, Dürer was anxious
for Luther's safety, by the letter to the wise Elector, quoted above;
and in 1518 he sent Luther a number of his prints, and soon after joined
with others of Link's hearers to send a greeting of encouragement. And
before long we find him jotting down a list of sixteen of Luther's
tracts, either because he intended to get and read them, or because they
were already his; and on the back of a drawing we find the following
outline of the faith such as he then apprehended it, in which we see
clearly that Christ has become the voice of conscience--the power in a
man by which he recognises and creates good.

Seeing that through disobedience of sin we have fallen into everlasting
Death, no help could have reached us save through the incarnation of the
Son of God, whereby He through His innocent suffering might abundantly
pay the Father all our guilt, so that the Justice of God might be
satisfied. For He has repented, of and made atonement for the sins of
the whole world, and has obtained of the Father Everlasting Life.
Therefore Christ Jesus is the Son of God, the highest power, who can do
all things, and He is the Eternal life. Into whomsoever Christ comes he
lives, and himself lives in Christ. Therefore all things are in Christ
good things. There is nothing good in us except it becomes good in
Christ. Whosoever, therefore, will altogether justify himself is unjust.
_If we will what is good, Christ wills it in us_. No human repentance is
enough to equalise deadly sin and be fruitful.

In this the old mythological language is retained, but it has received a
new interpretation or significance, and this quite without the writer's
perceiving what he is doing. Christ is affirmed to have repented of the
sins of the whole world. Among the early heresiarchs there were, I
believe, some who went so far as to hold that he had committed the sins
before he repented of them, and triumphed over their effects by his
sufferings and death. In any case, a similar feeling is expressed by our
odd mystic Blake in his "Everlasting Gospel":

  "If He (Jesus) intended to take on sin,
  His mother should an harlot have bin."

The actual records of Christ are too meagre the moment he is regarded as
an allegory of human life; and such additions to the creed spring
naturally out of the ardent seeker's desire to realise the universality
implied in the dogma of his Godhead, which is accepted even by Blake as
a historical fact beyond question. It was not the character of so much
as can be perceived of the universe which daunted Luther and Dürer, as
it daunts the serious man to-day. They accepted what appears to us a
cheap and easy subterfuge, because they believed it to have been
prescribed by God; the ambiguous inferences which such a prescription
must logically cast on the Divine character did not arrest their
attention. What they gained was a free conscience, a conscience in which
Christ was, to use their language, and which was in Christ; and for
practical piety this was sufficient. They themselves had not made up
their minds on theoretical points; it was only in the face of their
opponents that they thought of arming themselves with like weapons, and
sought a mechanical agreement upon questions about which no one ever has
known, or probably ever can know, anything at all. This was where
Luther's pugnacity betrayed him; so that little by little he seems to
lose spiritual beauty, as the monk, all fire and intensity, is
transformed into the "plump doctor," and again into the bird of ill omen
who croaked.

"The arts are growing as if there was to be a new start and the world
was to become young again. I hope God will finish with it. We have come
already to the White Horse. Another hundred years and all will be over."

Compare this with Dürer's:

"Sure am I that many notable men will arise, all of whom will write both
well and better about this art than I."

"Would to God that 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."

I do not want to judge Luther harshly; he had done splendidly, and it is
difficult to meddle with worldly things without soiling one's fingers
and depressing one's heart; but I ask which of these two quotations
expresses man's most central character best--the desire for nobler
life--which reveals the more admirable temper? (Dürer had been touched
by the spirit of the Renaissance as well as by that of the Reformation;
we can distinguish easily when he is speaking under the one influence,
when under the other, and the contrast often impresses one as the
contrast between the above quotations. And it gives us great reason to
deplore that the two spirits could not work side by side as they did in
Dürer and a few rare souls, but that in the world there was war between
them.) It seems inevitable that the things men fight about should always
be spoiled. The best part of written thought is something that cannot be
analysed, cannot therefore be defended or used for offence; it is a
spirit, an emanation, something that influences us more subtly than we
know how to describe.

We see by the passage quoted that Dürer was not only influenced by
Luther's heroism, but by his doctrinal theorising. Unfortunately we do
not know whether he outgrew this second and less admirable influence.
Did he feel like his friend Pirkheimer in the end, that "the new
evangelical knaves made the old popish knaves seem pious by contrast?"
Milton under similar circumstances came to think that "New Presbyter is
but old Priest writ large." Probably not; for just as we know he did not
abandon what seemed to him beautiful and helpful in old Catholic
ceremonies, usages, and conceptions, so probably he would not confuse
what had been real gain in the Reformation with the excesses of
Anabaptists or Socialists, or even of Luther himself or his followers.
There is no reason to suppose he would have judged so hastily as the
gouty irascible Pirkheimer, however much he may have deplored the course
of events. It must have been evident to thoughtful men, then, that it
was impossible for so large an area to be furnished with properly
trained pastors in so short a time, and that therefore more or less
deplorable material was bound to be mingled in the official _personnel_
of the new sect. It is impossible, when we consider how he solved the
precisely parallel difficulty in aesthetics, not to feel that if he had
had time given him, he would have arrived in point of doctrine at a
moderation similar to that of Erasmus.

Men deliberate and hold numberless differing opinions about beauty....
Being then, as we are, in such a state of error, I know not certainly
what the ultimate measure of true beauty is.... Because now we cannot
altogether attain unto perfection shall we, therefore, wholly cease from
learning? By no means ... for it behoveth the rational man to choose the
good. (See the passage complete on page 15.)

Luther imagined that the faith that saved was entire confidence in the
fact that a bargain had been struck between the Persons of the Trinity,
according to which Christ's sacrifice should be accepted as satisfying
the justice of his Father, outraged by Adam's fault. To-day this appears
to the majority of educated men a fantastic conception. For them the
faith that saves is love of goodness, as love of beauty saves the artist
from mistakes into which his intelligence would often plunge him. Jesus
has no claim upon us superior to his goodness and his beauty; nor can we
conceive of the possibility of such a claim. But we recognise with Dürer
that we do not know what the true measure of goodness and beauty is, and
all that we can do is to choose always the good and the beautiful
according to the measure of our reason--to the fulness of the light at
present granted to us.


The curiosity of the modern man of science no doubt is descended from
that of men like Leonardo and the early Humanists, but it differs from
almost more than it resembles it. The motive power behind both is no
doubt the confidence of the healthy mind that the human intelligence
will ultimately prove adequate to comprehend the spectacle of the
universe. But for the Humanists, for Dürer and his friends, the
consciousness of the irreconcilableness of that spectacle with the
necessary ideals of human nature had not produced, as in our
contemporaries and our immediate forerunners it has produced, either the
atrophy of expectation which afflicts some, or the extravagance of
ingenuity that cannot rest till it has rationalised hope, which torments
others. They were saddled with neither the indifference nor the
restlessness of the modern intellect. They escaped like boys on a
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

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

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

_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

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

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

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

[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

[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

[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_

[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

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

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

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

[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
and the pictures he saw at Venice, and yet again by those he saw in the
Netherlands. As Velasquez, after each of his journeys to Italy, returns
to attempt a mythological picture in the grand style, so Dürer turns to
painting after his return from Venice or from the Netherlands; and his
pictures divide themselves into three groups: those painted after or
during his _Wanderjahre_ and before he went to Venice in 1505, those
painted there and during the next five years after his return, and those
painted in the Netherlands or commenced immediately on his
return thence.


The mediums of oil and tempera lend themselves to the production of
broad-coloured surfaces that merge imperceptibly into one another. There
are men the fundamental unit of whose picture language is a blot or
shape; as children or as savages, they would find these most capable of
expressing what they saw. There are others for whom the scratch or line
is the fundamental unit, for whom every object is most naturally
expressed by an outline. There are, of course, men who present us with
every possible blend of these two fundamental forms of picture language.

The mediums of oils and tempera are especially adapted to the
requirements of those who see things rather as a diaper of shapes than
as a map of lines; while for these last the point of pen, burin, or
etching-needle offers the most congenial implement. Dürer was very
greatly more inclined to express objects by a map of lines than as a
diaper of coloured shapes; and for this reason I say that he was not a
painter born. If this be true, as a painter he must have been at a
disadvantage. In this preponderance of the draughtsman qualities he
resembles many artists of the Florentine school, as also in his
theoretic pre-occupation with perspective, proportion, architecture, and
technical methods. We are impressed by a coldness of approach, an
austerity, a dignity not altogether justified by the occasion, but as it
were carried over from some precedent hour of spiritual elevation; the
prophet's demeanour in between the days of visitation, a little too
consciously careful not to compromise the divinity which informs him no
longer. This tendency to fall back on manner greatly acquired indeed,
but no longer consonant with the actual mood, which is really too vacant
of import to parade such importance, is often a fault of natures whose
native means of expression is the thin line, the geometer's precision,
the architect's foresight in measurement. And by allowing for it I think
we can explain the contradiction apparent between the critics' continual
insistence on what they call Dürer's great thoughts, and the sparsity of
intellectual creativeness which strikes one in turning over his
engravings, so many are there of which either the occasion or the
conception are altogether trivial when compared with the grandiose
aspect of the composition or the impeccable mechanical performance.
Dürer's literary remains sufficiently prove his mind to have been
constantly exercised upon and around great thoughts, and their influence
may be felt in the austerity and intensity of his noblest portraits and
other creations. But "great thoughts" in respect of works of art either
means the communication of a profound emotion by the creation of a
suitable arabesque for a deeply significant subject, as in the flowing
masses of Michael Angelo's _Creation of Man_, or it means the pictorial
enhancing of the telling incidents of a dramatic situation such as we
find it in Rembrandt's treatment of the Crucifixion, Deposition, or
Entombment. Now it seems to me the paucity of successes on these lines
in one who nevertheless occasionally entirely succeeds, is what is most
striking in Dürer. Perhaps when dealing with the graphic arts one should
rather speak of great character than great thoughts; yet Dürer, while
constantly impressing us as a great character, seems to be one who was
all too rarely wholly himself. The abundant felicity in expression of
Rembrandt or Shakespeare is altogether wanting. The imperial imposition
of mood which Michael Angelo affects is perhaps never quite certainly
his, even in the _Melancholy_. Yet we feel that not only has he a
capacity of the same order as those men, but that he is spiritually akin
to them, despite his coldness, despite his ostentation.

But not only is Dürer praised for "great thoughts," but he is praised
for realism, and sometimes accused of having delighted in ugliness; or,
as it is more cautiously expressed, of having preferred truth to grace.
This is a point which I consider may better be discussed in respect to
his drawings than his pictures, which nearly always have some obvious
conventional or traditional character, so that the word realism cannot
be applied to them. Even in his portraits his signature or an
inscription is often added in such a manner as insists that this is a
painting, a panel;--not a view through a window, or an attempt to
deceive the eye with a make-believe reality.


The altar-piece, consisting of a centre, the Virgin Mary adoring her
baby son in the carpenter's shop at Nazareth, and two wings, St. Anthony
and St. Sebastian, though the earliest of Dürer's pictures which has
survived, is perhaps the most beautiful of them all, at least as far as
the two wings are concerned. The centre has been considerably damaged by
repainting, and was probably, owing to the greater complication of
motives in it, never quite so successful. Whether at Venice or
elsewhere, it would seem almost necessary that the young painter had
seen and been impressed by pictures by Gentile Bellini and Andrea
Mantegna, both of whom have painted in the same thin tempera on fine
canvas, obtaining similar beauties of colour and surface. It is hardly
possible to imagine one who had seen none but German or Flemish pictures
painting the St. Sebastian. The treatment of the still life in the
foreground is in itself almost a proof of this. Perhaps this thin, flat
tempera treatment was that most suited to Dürer's native bias, and we
should regret his having been tempted to overcome the more brilliant and
exacting medium of oils. In any case he more than once reverted to it in
portraits and studies, while the majority of the pictures painted before
he went to Venice in 1506 have more or less kinship with it. The
supposed portrait of Frederic the Wise is another masterpiece in this
kind, and the _Hercules slaying the birds of the Stymphalian Lake_ in
the Germanic Museum, Nuremberg, 1500, was probably another. For though
now considerably damaged by restorations and dirt, it suggests far
greater pleasures than it actually imparts. The contrast between

  "The sea-worn face sad as mortality,
   Divine with yearning after fellowship,"

and the blond richly curling hair blown back from it, is extremely fine
and entirely suited to the treatment; as is also the similar contrast
between the richly inlaid bow, shield, and arrows, and the broad and
flowing modulation of the energetic limbs and back.

The Paumgartner altar-piece, 1499, stands out from the "ordinary
pictures" belonging to this early period. It consists of a charming and
gay Nativity in the centre, and two knights in armour on the wings,
probably portraits of the donors, Stephan and Lucas Paumgartner,
figuring as warlike saints. Stephan, a personal friend of Dürer's,
figured again as St. George in the _Trinity and All Saints_ picture
painted in 1511. There were originally two panels with female saints
beyond these again, but no trace of them remains. Now that the landscape
backgrounds have been removed from the side panels, there is no reason
to suppose that any one but Dürer had a hand in these works. But in
writing to Heller, he tells him that it was unheard of to put so much
work into an altar-piece as he was then putting into his _Coronation of
the Virgin_, and we may feel certain that Dürer regarded this picture as
in the altar-piece category. The two knights are represented against
black grounds, and their silhouettes form a very fine arabesque, which
the streamers of their lances, artificially arranged, complete and
emphasise. This black ground points probably to the influence of Jacopo
de' Barbari, whom Dürer had met and been mystified by. (See p. 63.)

[Illustration: ST. GEORGE AND ST. EUSTACE Side panels in oils of the
Paumgartner Altar-piece in the Alt Pinakothek, Munich]

No doubt there was much in such a background that appealed to the
draughtsman in Dürer. It insisted on the outline which had probably been
the starting-point of his conception. Nothing could be less
painter-like, or make the modelling of figures more difficult, as Dürer,
perhaps, realised when he later on painted the _Adam and Eve_ at Madrid.
These two warriors are, however, most successful and imposing, and
immeasurably enhanced now that the spurious backgrounds, artfully
concocted out of Dürer's own prints by an ingenious improver of his
betters, have been removed. This person had also tinkered the centre
picture, painting out two heraldic groups of donors, far smaller in
scale than the actual personages of the scene, but very useful in the
composition, as giving a more ample base to the masses of broken and
fretted quality; useful also now as an additional proof of how free from
the fetters of an impertinent logic of realism Dürer ever was. These
little kneeling donors and their coats of arms emphasise the surface,
and are delightful in their naïvety, while they serve to render the gay,
almost gaudy panel more homely, and give it a place and a function in
the world. For they help us to realise that it answered a demand, and
was not the uncalled-for and slightly frigid excursion of the aesthetic
imagination which it must otherwise appear. In the same way the
brilliant _Adoration of the Magi_ (dated 1504) in the Uffizi, also
somewhat gaudy and frigid, could we but see it where it originally hung
in Luther's church at Wittenberg, might invest itself with some charm
that one vainly seeks in it now. The failure in emotion might seem more
natural if we saw the wise Elector discussing his new purchase; we might
have felt what Dürer meant when a year later he wrote from Venice: "I am
a gentleman here and only a hanger-on at home." The expectation and
prophecy of his success in those who surround a painter,--even if it be
chiefly expressed by bitter rivalry, or the craft by which one greedy
purchaser tries to over-reach another, even if he has to be careful not
to eat at some tables for fear of being poisoned by a host whose
ambition his present performance may have dashed--even expressed in this
truly Venetian manner, the expectation and prophecy of his success in
those about him make it easier for a painter to soar, and may touch his
work with an indefinable glow that the approval of honest and astute
electors or solid burghers may have been utterly powerless to impart.


At Venice, perhaps the occasion for his journey thither, Dürer undertook
a more important work than any he had yet attempted. _The Feast of the
Rose Garlands_ was painted for the high altar of the church of San
Bartolommeo, belonging to the German Merchants' Exchange, and close to
their Pondaco.[73] In it we find a very considerable influence of Italy
in general, and Giovanni Bellini in particular; it is a splendid and
pompous parade piece, and probably the portraits of the German merchants
which it contained were the part of the work which was most successful,
as it was certainly that most congenial to Dürer's genius. The _Christ
among the Doctors_, dated 1506, and now in the Barberini Palace at Rome,
might seem to have been painted chiefly to justify Giovanni Bellini's
astonishment at the calligraphical painting of hair. It is one of those
pictures of which a literary description would please more than the work
itself. Though the contrast between the sweet childish face and those of
the old worldly scribes is well conceived, it is in reality so violent
as to be grotesque, and the play of hands produces the effect of a
diagram explanatory of a conjuring trick, or a deaf and dumb alphabet,
instead of conveying the inner sense of the scene represented after
Rossetti's fashion, who so often succeeded in making hands speak.
Another work, which dates from Venice, is the little _Crucifixion_ (at
Dresden.) Perhaps the landscape and suffering body are just sufficiently
touched with acute emotion to make the arabesque of the two floating
ends of the loin-cloth appear a little out of place; for in spite of the
delicacy and all but tenderness which Dürer has for once attained to in
the workmanship, one's satisfaction seems let and hindered.


Shortly after his return from Venice, Dürer completed two life-size
panels representing Adam and Eve; there are drawings for them dated
during his stay at Venice, but as a work of art they are far less
interesting than the engraving of the same subject completed three years
earlier. The treatment, even the conception, has been inadequately
influenced by the proposed scale of the work. Probably they were like
the earlier Hercules, done to please the artist himself rather than some
patron; they are an effort to prove that he could do something which was
after all too hard for him. Not only had he set himself the problem
which the Greeks and Michael Angelo, and Raphael with their aid alone,
had solved, of finding proportions suitable to express harmoniously the
infinite capacity for complex motion combined with that constancy of
intention which gives dignity to men and women alone among animals; but
the technical problems involved in representing life-size nude figures
against a plain black ground were indeed an unconscious confession that
Dürer did not understand paint. There is a copy of these panels,
recently attributed to Baldung Grien, in the Pitti. Animals and birds
have been added from drawings made by Dürer, but the picture is still
farther from success, though Grien may not improbably have executed it
with Dürer at his elbow. Dürer made one more attempt at representing a
life-size nude, the _Lucretia_, finished in 1518, at a period when his
powers seem to have been clouded, for the few pictures which belong to
it are all inferior. However, studies for the figure exist dated 1508,
so we may suppose it was a project brought back from Venice. His
ill-success with this subject may remind us of Shakespeare's long
pedantic exercise in rhyme on the same theme. The pictorial motive of
Dürer's work is beautiful and worthy of a Greek: indeed it is identical
with that of Watts' _Psyche_, of which the version in private hands is
very superior to that in the Tate Gallery. The position of the bed, the
idea of the draperies all are parallel. No doubt the lonely feather shed
from Love's wing at which Psyche gazes is both more of a poet's and of
a painter's invention than the cold steel of Lucretia's dagger. And in
spite of his wide knowledge of Greek and Italian art, our English master
could scarcely have produced a work of such classic dignity with the
more violent motive of the dagger, which seems to call for "The torch
that flames with many a lurid flake," or at least the torpid glow of
smouldering embers, to light it in such a manner as would make a really
pictorial treatment possible. No doubt Dürer has been misled by a too
tyrannous notion as to what ought to be the physical build of so chaste
a matron, and in his anxiety to make chastity self-evident, has
forgotten to explain the need for it by such a degree of attractiveness
as might tempt a tyrant to be dangerous. Just as Shakespeare, in
attempting to exhaust every possible motive which the situation
comports, has forgotten that for a character that can move us a
selection is needed. Another elaborate piece of frigid invention is the
_Massacre of the Ten Thousand Saints in the reign of Sapor II. of
Persia_, in the Imperial Gallery at Vienna, dated 1508. However, in this
case no doubt Dürer could plead that the subject was not of his own
choice, for he was commissioned by the Elector, Frederic the Wise, whose
wisdom probably did not extend to a knowledge of what subjects lend
themselves to pictorial treatment. Still, making every allowance for
these facts, it cannot be admitted that Dürer did the best possible with
his subject. Probably it did not move him, and neither does he us. Peter
Breughel and Albrecht Altdorfer would certainly have done far better so
far as the conception of the picture is concerned, though neither of
them had so much skill to waste on its realisation. Nevertheless, this
tour _de force_ is the picture of Dürer's most pleasing in surface and
colour, with the exception of the Wings _of the Dresden Altar-piece_. It
contains beautiful groups and figures, and is extremely well executed;
so that it may amuse and delight the eye for a long time while the
significance of the subject is forgotten.

PERSIA--Oil picture. "Iste faciebat anno domini 1508 Albertus Dürer


We now turn to the third and fourth of the half-dozen pictures of Dürer,
which stand out from all the rest by their elaboration and importance.
The _Coronation of the Virgin (see_ p. 97), painted as the centre panel
of the altar-piece commissioned by Jacob Heller at Frankfort, was
unfortunately burnt with the palace at Munich on the night of April 9,
1674; the Elector Maximilian of Bavaria having forced or cajoled the
Dominicans, to whose church Heller had left it, to sell it to him. It is
now represented by a copy made by Paul Juvenal in its original position,
where the almost ruined portraits of Heller and his wife are supposed to
have been partly Dürer's, though the other panels are obviously the work
of assistants. This work exists for us in a series of magnificent brush
drawings in black and white line on grey paper, rather than in the copy,
and we can in a measure imagine its appearance by the perfectly-
preserved _Trinity and All Saints_ commenced immediately after
it for Matthew Landauer, and now in the Imperial Gallery at Vienna.
Nothing can surpass this last picture in elaboration and finish; the
colour, if not beautiful, is rich and luminous; and though it is
separate faces and draperies which chiefly delight the eye, the
composition of the whole is an adequate adaptation of the traditional
treatment for such themes which had been handed down through the middle
ages. It invites comparison rather with the similar subjects painted by
Fra Angelico than with the _Disputa_ of Raphael, to which German critics
compare it; however, it possesses as little of Angelico's sweet
blissfulness as the Dominican painter possessed of Dürer's accuracy of
hand and searching intensity of visual realisation. Both painters are
interested in individuals, and, representing crowds of faces, make every
one a portrait; both evince a dramatic sense of propriety in gesture,
both revel in bright, clear colours, especially azure; but as the light
in Dürer's masterpiece has a rosy hotness, which ill bears comparison
with the virginal pearliness of Angelico's heaven, so the costumes and
the figures of the Florentine are doll-like, when compared with the
unmistakable quality of the stuffs in which the fully-resurrected bodies
of Dürer's saints rumple and rustle. The wings of his angels are at
least those of birds, though coloured to fancy, while Angelico's are of
pasteboard tinsel and paint. But in spite of the comparative genuineness
of his upholstery, as a vision of heaven there can be no hesitation in
preferring that of the Florentine.

In a frame designed by Dürer and carved under his supervision, this
monument to thoroughness and skill was ensconced in a little chapel
dedicated to All Saints, which in style approaches our Tudor buildings.
There the frame remained till lately with a poor copy of the picture and
an inscription in old German to this effect: ('Matthew Landauer
completed the dedication of this chapel of the twelve brethren, together
with the foundation attached to it, and this picture, in the year 1511
after the birth of Christ,')

Dürer signed his picture with the same Latin formula as that of the

"Albrecht Dürer of Nuremberg did this the year from when the Virgin
brought forth 1511."


Of all Dürer's paintings of the Madonna, there is only one which, by its
superb design, deserves special notice among his masterpieces. This
_Madonna with the Iris_ exists in two versions, both unfinished; one the
property of Sir Frederick Cook, the other at Prague, in the Rudolphium.
This latter Mr. Campbell Dodgson considers to be a poor copy. The panel
is badly cracked, and weeds and long grasses have been added, apparently
with a view to masking the cracks. Judging from a photograph alone, many
of these additions seem so appropriately placed and freely sketched that
I feel it at least to be possibly a work by the master himself. On the
other hand, Sir Frederick's picture is so sleepy and clumsy in handling,
that though it is unfinished, and perhaps in part damaged by some
restorer, I feel great hesitation in regarding it as Dürer's handiwork.
In both cases the magnificent design is his, and that alone in either is
fully representative of him. Mr. Campbell Dodgson ventures to criticise
the profusion of drapery as excessive, but my feeling, I must confess,
endorses Dürer's in this, rather than that of his learned critic. To me
this profusion, and the grandeur it gives as a mass in the design, is of
the very essence of what is most peculiarly creative in Dürer's

The last picture of which it is necessary to speak is that of the _Four
Apostles_ or the _Four Preachers_, as they have been more appropriately
called; it was perhaps the last he painted, and is in many respects the
most successful. It is the only one by which the comparison with
Raphael, so dear to German critics, seems at all warranted: there is
certainly some kinship between Dürer's St. John and St. Paul and
apostolic figures in the cartoons or on the Vatican walls. The German
artist's manner is less rhetorical, but his conception is hardly less
grandiose; and his taste does not so closely border on over-emphasis,
but neither is it so conscious or so fluent. Technically it seems to me
that the chief influence is a recollection of the large canvases of Jan
and Hubert Van Eyck and Hubert Van der Goes which Dürer had admired in
the Netherlands; these had strengthened and directed the bias of his
self-culture towards simple masses on a large scale.[74] He may very
well have sought to combine what he learnt from them with hints he found
in the engravings after Raphael which he obtained in Antwerp. His
increasing sickness may probably account for the fact that the white
mantle of St. Paul is the only portion quite finished. The assertion of
the writing-master, Johann Neudörffer, who in his youth had known Dürer,
that the four figures are typical of the four temperaments, the
sanguine, the choleric, the phlegmatic, and the melancholic,--into which
categories an amateurish psychology arbitrarily divided human
characters,--is as likely to be correct as it is certain that it adds
nothing to the power and beauty of the presentation. Though Dürer in his
work on human proportions describes the physical build of these
different types, we do not know exactly what degree of precision he
imagined it possible to attain in discerning them, or to what extent
their names were merely convenient handles for certain types which he
had chosen æsthetically. To us to-day this classification is merely a
trace of an obsolete pedantry, which it would be a vain curiosity to
attempt to follow with the object of identifying its imaginary bases.

The four preachers have all the air of being striking likenesses of
actual people which it is possible for work so broadly and grandly
conceived to have. These panels are interesting, even more than by their
actual success, as showing us what a scholar Dürer was to the end; how
he learned from every defeat as well as every victory, and constantly
approached a conception and a rendering of human beauty which seems
intimately connected with man's fullest intellectual and spiritual
freedom--a conception and rendering of human beauty which Raphael
himself had to learn from the Greeks and Michael Angelo. The work has
suffered, it is supposed, from restorers, and also from the Munich
monarch, Maximilian, who had the tremendous texts (see page 177) which
Dürer had inscribed beneath the two panels sawn off in order to spare
the feelings of the Jesuits, who were dominant at his court, for their
conception of religion did not consist with terrors to come for those
who, abuse their trust as governors and directors of mankind.

Lastly, mention must be made of Dürer's monochrome masterpiece, The Road
to Calvary 15.27 (see illus.), in the collection of Sir Frederick Cook.
A poor copy of this work is at Dresden, a better one at Bergamo. The
effect of it, and several elaborate water-colour designs of the same
class, is akin to the peculiar richness of chased metal work; glinting
light hovers over crowds of little figures.


[Footnote 73: The original, now in the Monastery of Strahow-Prague, is
very much damaged, and in part repainted. There are copies in the
Imperial Gallery at Vienna (No. 1508), and in the possession of A. W.
Miller, Esq., of Sevenoaks. It is to be regretted that the Dürer Society
published a photogravure of this latter work, which, though till then
unknown, is far less interesting than the original, of which they only
gave a reproduction in the text, an exhaustive history of its fortunes
from the learned pen of Mr. Cambell Dodgson. This picture, which is so
frequently referred to in the letters from Venice, contains portraits of
the Emperor Maximilian and Pope Julius II., though neither of them from
life, and in the background those of Dürer and Pirkheimer.]

[Footnote 74: See what Melanchthon says, p. 187.]




If Dürer's pictures are as a whole the least satisfactory section of his
work, in his portraits he makes us abundant amends for the time he might
otherwise have been reproached for wasting to obtain a vain mastery over
brushes and pigment.

Unfortunately it is probable that many even of these have been lost or
destroyed, while of his most interesting sitters we have nothing but
drawings. He did not paint his friend, the boisterous and learned
Pirkheimer; and what would we not give for a painted portrait of
Erasmus, or a portrait of Kratzer, the astronomer royal, to compare with
the two masterpieces by Holbein in the Louvre? Even the posthumous
portrait of his Imperial patron Maximilian is less interesting than the
drawings from which it was done, the eccentric sitter not having the
time to spare for so sensible a monument.

[Illustration: PORTRAIT OF THE ARTIST Pen drawing in dark brown ink at
Erlangen (This drawing has been cut down for reproduction)]


However, Dürer had one sitter who was perhaps the most beautiful of all
the sons of men, whose features combined in an equal measure nobleness
of character, intellectual intensity and physical beauty; and, finding
him also most patient and accessible, he painted him frequently. The two
earliest portraits of himself are the drawings which show him at the
ages of thirteen and nineteen(?) respectively (see illustration). Then,
as a young man with a sprouting chin, we have the picture till recently
at Leipzig of which Goethe's enthusiastic description has already been
quoted (p. 62). It is probable that neither Titian nor Holbein could
have shown at so early an age a portrait so admirably conceived and
executed. It is a masterpiece, even now that the inevitable improvements
which those who lack all relish of genius rarely lack the opportunity,
never the inclination, to add to a masterpiece, have confused the
drawing of the eyes, and reduced the bloom and delicacy that the
features traced by a master hand, even when they become an almost
complete wreck, often retain; for time and fortune are not so
conscientiously destructive as the imbecility of the incapable. Next we
have a portrait of Dürer when only five years older, in perfect
preservation,--that in the Prado at Madrid. This charming picture must
certainly have drawn a sonnet from the Shakespeare who wrote _Love's
Labour Lost_, could he have seen it. For it presents a young dandy, the
delicacy and sensitiveness of whose features seem to demand and warrant
the butterfly-like display of the white and black costume hemmed with
gold, and of a cap worthy to crown those flowing honey-coloured locks.
There is a good copy of this delightful work in the Uffizi, where, in a
congregation of self-painted artists, it does all but justice to the
most beautiful of them all. For fineness of touch the original has never
been surpassed by any hand of European or even Chinese master. Next
there are the dapper little full-length portraits which Dürer inserted
in his chief paintings. He stands beside his friend Pirkheimer at the
back of the adoring crowd in the _Feast of the Roses_, and again in the
midst of the mountain slope, where on all sides of them the ten thousand
saints suffer martyrdom. Dürer stands alone beside an inscription in a
gentle pastoral landscape beneath the vision of the Virgin's Assumption
seen over the heads of the Apostles, who gaze up in rapture; and again
he is alone beside a broad peaceful river beneath the vision of the Holy
Trinity and All Saints. I know of no parallel to these little portraits.
Rembrandt and Botticelli and many others have introduced portraits of
themselves into religious pictures, but always in disguise, as a
personage in the crowd or an actor in the scene. Only the master who was
really most exceptional for his good looks, has had the kindness, in
spite of every incongruity, to present himself before us on all
important occasions, like the court beauty in whom it is charity rather
than vanity to appear in public. It is expected that the very beautiful
be gracious thus. Emerson tells us that two centuries ago the Town
Council of Montpelier passed a law to constrain two beautiful sisters to
sit for a certain time on their balcony every other day, that all might
enjoy the sight of what was most beautiful in their town. It was one of
the most gracious traits of Jeanne d'Arc's character that she liked to
wear beautiful clothes, because it pleased the poor people to see her
thus. And Palm Sunday commemorates another historical example of such
grace and truth. Dürer's face had a striking resemblance to the
traditional type for Jesus, adding to it just that element of individual
peculiarity, the absence of which makes it ever liable to appear a
little vacant and unconvincing. The perception of this would seem to
have dictated the general arrangement of Dürer's crowning portrait of
himself, that at Munich dated 1500 (see illus.), "Before which" (Mr.
Ricketts writes in his recently published volume on the Prado) "one
forgets all other portraits whatsoever, in the sense that this perfect
realisation of one of the world's greatest men is equal to the
occasion." The most exhaustive visual power and executive capacity meet
in this picture, which would seem to have traversed the many perils to
which it has been exposed without really suffering so much as their
enumeration makes one expect. Thausing tells us:

The following is the story of the picture's wanderings, as told at
Nuremberg. It was lent by the magistrates, after they had taken the
precaution of placing a seal and strings on the back of the panel, to
the painter and engraver Kügner, to copy. He, however, carefully sawed
the panel in half (layer-wise) and glued to the authentic back his
miserable copy, which now hangs in the Town Hall. The original he sold,
and it eventually came into the possession of King Ludwig I., before
Nuremberg belonged to Bavaria.

[Illustration: _Hanfstaengl_ "I, Albert Dürer of Nuremberg, painted my
own portrait here in the proper colours at the age of twenty-eight"
Oil-painting. Alt Pinakothek, Munich]

He suggests that the colour was once bright and varied, and that by
varnish and glazes it has been reduced to its present harmonious
condition. The hair is certainly much darker than the other portraits
would have led one to expect, and the almost walnut brown of the general
colour scheme is unique in Dürer's work. However, if some such
transmogrification has been effected, it is marvellous that it should
have obliterated so little of the inimitable handiwork of the master.
Thausing considered the date (1500), monogram and inscription on the
back to be forgeries, and it certainly looks as if it ought to come
nearer to the portrait in the _Feast of the Rose Garlands_ (1506) than
to that at Madrid (1498). A genuine scalloped tablet is faintly visible
under the dark glazes which cover the background; and this, no doubt,
bears the original inscription and date. What may not have happened to a
picture after or before it left the artist's studio? Critics are too
quick to determine that such changes have been introduced by others. In
this case we must remember how experimental Dürer was, even with regard
to his engravings on metal. He tries iron plates and etching, and
finally settles on a method of commencing with etching and finishing
with the burin; and this was in a medium in which he soon found himself
at home. But with painting he was vastly more experimental, and never
satisfied with his results, as he told Melanchthon (see p. 187). Then we
must remember that this picture probably was during Dürer's lifetime, if
not in his own possession, at least never out of his reach; and no doubt
he was aware that it was the grandest and most perfectly finished of all
his portraits--therefore, as he came more and more, especially after his
visit to the Netherlands, to desire and seek after simplicity, he may
himself have added the dark glazes. If the original inscription
contained a dedication to Pirkheimer or some other notable Nuremberger,
there was every reason for the artist who stole the picture to
obliterate this and add a new one: or this may have been done when it
became the property of the town, for those who sold it may have wished
that it should not be known that it might have been an heirloom in their
family. Infinite are the possibilities, those only decide in such cases
who have a personal motive for doing so; "la rage de conclure" (as
Flaubert saw) is the pitfall of those who are vain of their knowledge.

[Illustration: OSWOLT KREL Oil portrait in the Alt Pinakothek at Munich]

[Illustration: _By permission_ of the "_Burlington_ Magazine" ALBERT
DÜRER THE ELDER, 1497 National Gallery]


Though fearing that it will appear but tedious, I will now attempt
briefly to describe in succession the remaining master portraits which
we owe to Dürer, and the effect that each produces. It is by these works
and not by his creative pictures that his ranks among the greatest names
of painting. These might be compared with the very finest portraits by
Raphael and Holbein, and the precedence would remain a question of
personal predilection; since nothing reasoned, no distinguishable
superiority over Dürer in vision or execution could be urged for either.
Rather, if mere capacity were regarded, he must have the palm; nor did
either of his compeers light upon a happier subject than was Dürer's
when he represented himself; nor did they achieve nobler designs. In
effect upon our emotions and sensations, these portraits may compete
with the masterpieces of Titian and Rembrandt, though the method of
expression is in their case too different to render comparison possible.
Whatever in the glow of light, in the power of shadow, to envelop and
enhance the features portrayed, is theirs and not his, his superiority
of searching insight, united with its equivalent of unique facility in
definition, seems more than to outweigh. Before he left for Venice,
besides the renderings of himself already mentioned, Dürer had painted
his father twice, in 1494 and in 1497. The latter was the pair to and
compeer of his own portrait at Madrid,; and, hitherto unknown, was lent
last year by Lord Northampton to the Royal Academy, and has since
been bought for the National Gallery. This beautiful work is unique even
among the works of the master, and is not so much the worse for
repainting as some make out. The majority of Dürer's portraits stand
alone. In each the Esthetic problem has been approached and solved in a
strikingly different manner. This picture and its fellow, the portrait
of the painter at Madrid, the _Oswolt Krel_, the portrait of a lady seen
against the sea at Berlin, the _Wolgemut_, and Dürer's own portrait at
Munich, though seen by the same absorbing eyes, are rendered each in
quite a different manner. No man has ever been better gifted for
portraying a likeness than Dürer; but the absence of a native
comprehension of pigment made him ever restless, and it might be
possible to maintain that each of these pictures presented us with a
differing strategy to enforce pigment, to subserve the purposes of a
draughtsman. Still this would seem to imply a greater sacrifice of ease
and directness than those brilliant masterpieces can be charged with.
They none of them lack beauty of colour, of surface, or of handling,
though each so unlike the other. In this portrait of his father, Dürer
has developed a shaken brushline, admirably adapted to suggest the
wrinkled features of an old man, but in complete contrast to the rapid
sweep of the caligraphic work in the _Oswolt Krel_; and it is to be
noticed how in both pictures the touch seems to have been invented to
facilitate the rendering of the peculiar curves and lines of the
sitter's features, and further variations of it developed to express the
draperies and other component parts of the picture. It is this
inventiveness in handling which most distinguishes Dürer from painters
like Raphael and Holbein, and makes his work comparable with the
masterpieces of Rembrandt and Titian, in spite of the extreme
opposition in aspect between their work and his.

The noble portrait of a middle-aged man, No. 557c, in the Royal Gallery
at Berlin, (supposed to represent Frederick the Wise, Elector of Saxony,
Dürer's first patron), gives us a master portrait, in which the
technical treatment is comparable to that of the early triptych at
Dresden, and which is a monument of sober power and distinction, though
again very difficult to compare with the other splendid portraits by the
same hand which hang beside or near it in that Gallery.

The vivid _Oswolt Krel_ at Munich shows the peculiarity of Dürer's
caligraphic touch better than perhaps any other of his portraits. The
finish is not carried so far as in the Madrid portrait of himself, where
even the texture of the gloves has been softened by touches of the
thumb, and the absence of these extra refinements leaves it the most
spontaneous and vigorously bold of all Dürer's paintings. The
concentrated energy of the sitter's features demanded such a treatment;
he seems to burn with the inconsiderate atheism of a Marlowe. Young, and
less surprised than indignant to be alone awake in a sleepy and bigoted
world, he seems convinced of a mission to chastise, _even_ to scandalise
his easy-going neighbours. Let us hope he met with better luck than the
Marlowes, Shelleys, and Rimbauds, whose tragedies we have read; for one
can but regret, as one meets his glance so much fiercer than need be,
that he is not known to history.

[Illustration: Oil Portrait of a Lady seen against the Sea In the Berlin

[Illustration: Oil portrait, dated 1506, at Hampton Court]

The fine portrait of Hans Tucher, 1499, in the Grand Ducal Museum at
Weimar should, judging from a photograph alone, be mentioned here. It
has obvious affinities with the _Oswolt Krel_, but the caligraphic
method is again modified in harmony with the character of the
sitter's features. The companion piece, representing Felicitas Tucherin,
would seem at some period to have been restored to the insignificance
and obscurity that belonged to the sitter before Dürer painted her.


The portraits which Dürer painted at Venice, or soon after his return,
betray the influence of other masterpieces on his own. Mr. Ricketts has
pointed to that of Antonello da Messina in the portraits of young men at
Vienna (1505) and at Hampton Court (1506). The former of these has an
allegorical sketch of Avarice, painted on the back in a thick impasto,
such as seems almost a presage of after developments of the Venetian
school, and may possibly show the influence of some early experiment by
Giorgione which Dürer wished to show that he could imitate if he liked.
The latter represents a personage who appears on the left of the _Feast
of Rose Wreaths_ in exactly the same cap and with the same fastening to
his jerkin, crossing his white shirt (see illustration opposite).

Not improbably Dürer may have painted separate portraits of nearly all
the members of the German Guild at Venice who appear in the _Rose
Garlands_. In any case much of his work during his stay there has
disappeared. It was here that he painted that beautiful head of a woman
(No. 557 G in the Berlin Gallery) with soft, almost Leonardesque
shadows, seen against the luminous hazy sea and sky, which remains
absolutely unique in method and effect among his works, and makes one
ask oneself unanswerable questions as to what might not have been the
result if he could but have brought himself to accept the offered
citizenship and salary, and stop on at Venice. A Dürer, not only
secluded from Luther and his troubling denunciations, but living to see
Titian and Giorgione's early masterpieces, perhaps forming friendships
with them, and later visiting Rome, standing in the Sistine Chapel,
seated in the Stanze between the School of Athens and the Disputa! I at
least cannot console myself for these missed opportunities, as so many
of his critics and biographers have done, by saying that doubtless had
he stayed he would have been spoiled like those second-class German and
Dutch painters, for whom the siren art of Italy proved a baneful
influence. One could almost weep to think of what has been probably lost
to the world because Dürer could not bring himself to stay on at Venice.
It _was_ here he painted the tiny panel representing the head of a girl
in gay apparel dated 1507 (in the Berlin Gallery), that makes one think,
even more than do Holbein's _Venus_ and _Lais_ at Basle, of the triumphs
that were reserved for Italians in the treatment of similar subjects.

After his return the influence of Venetian methods gradually waned, till
we find in the masterly and refined portrait of _Wolgemut_ (1516) (see
illustration); something of a return to the caligraphic method so
noticeable in the _Oswolt Krel_. About the same time Dürer recommenced
painting in tempera in a manner resembling the early Dresden _Madonna_
and the _Hercules_, as we see by the rather unpleasant heads of Apostles
in the Uffizi and the tine one of an old man in a vermilion cap in the
Louvre, &c. &c.

[Illustration: _Bruckmann_--"Albrecht Dürer took this likeness of his
master, Michael Wolgemut, in the year 1516, and he was 82 years of age,
and lived to the year 1519, and then departed on Saint Andrew's Day,
very early before sunrise"--Oil-painting. Alt Pinakothek, Munich]

[Illustration: HANS IMHOF (?)--From the painting in the Royal Gallery
at Madrid--(By permission _of Messrs. Braun, Clément & Co., Dornach
(Alsace), Paris and New York_)]


On his arrival at Antwerp in 1521 Dürer commenced the third and last
group of master-portraits; foremost is the superb head and bust at
Madrid, supposed to represent Hans Imhof, a patrician of Dürer's native
town and his banker while at Antwerp; of the same date are the
triumphant renderings of the grave and youthful Bernard van Orley (at
Dresden) and that of a middle-aged man--lost for the National Gallery,
and now in the possession of Mrs. Gardner, of Boston. All three were
probably painted at Antwerp.

It may be that the portrait of Imhof and the report of the honours and
commissions showered on their painter while in the Netherlands, woke the
Nuremberg Councillors up, for we have portraits of three of them dated
1526--Jacob Muffel, Hieronymus Holzschuher, (both in the Royal Gallery,
Berlin,) and the eccentric and unpleasing medallion representing
Johannes Kleeberger, at Vienna. With the exception of this last, this
group is composed of masterpieces absolutely unrivalled for intensity
and dignity of power. Van Eyck painted with inhuman indifference a few
ugly grotesque but otherwise uninteresting people. All but a very few of
Holbein's best portraits pale before these instances of searching
insight; and, north of the Alps at least, there are no others which can
be compared to them. The _Hans Imhof_ shows a shrewd and forbidding
schemer for gain on a large scale--a face which produces the impression
of a trap or closed strong box, but, being so alert and intelligent,
seems to demand some sort of commiseration for the constraint put upon
its humanity in the creation of a master, a tyrant over himself first
and afterwards over an ever-widening circle of others. The unknown
master who is represented in Mrs. Gardner's beautiful picture is less
forbidding, though not less patently a moulder of destiny. _Jacob
Muffel_ has a more open face, a more serene gaze; but his mouth too has
the firmness acquired by those who live always in the presence of
enemies, or are at least aware that "a little folding of the hands" may
be fatal to all their most cherished purposes. The last of these masters
of themselves and of their fortunes in hazardous and change-fraught
times is _Hieronymus Holzschuher_, Dürer's friend. Only less felicitous
because less harmonious in colour than the three former, this vivacious
portrait of a ruddy, jovial, and white-haired patrician seen against a
bright blue background might produce the effect of a Father Christmas,
were it not for the resolute mouth and the puissant side-glance of the
eyes. Bernard van Orley, the only youthful person immortalised in this
group, has a gentle, responsible air which his features are a little too
heavy to enhance.

I have now mentioned the chief of his portraits, which are the best of
his painting, and by which he ranks for the directness and power of his
workmanship and of his visual analysis in the company of the very
greatest. Raphael and Holbein have alone produced portraits which, as
they can be compared to Dürer's, might also be held to rival them;
Titian, Rubens, Velasquez, Rembrandt, Van Dyck, Reynolds have done as
splendidly, but the material they used and the aims they set themselves
were too different to make a comparison serviceable. These men are
pre-eminent among those who have produced portraits which, while
unsurpassed for technical excellences, present to us individuals whose
beauty or the character it expresses are equally exceptional.

[Illustration: "JAKOB MUFFEL" Oil portrait in the Berlin Gallery]




Perhaps Dürer is more felicitous as a draughtsman than in any other
branch of art. The power of nearly all first-rate artists is more wholly
live and effective in their drawings than in elaborated works. Dürer
himself says:

An artist of understanding and experience can show more of his great
power and art in small things, roughly and rudely done, than many
another in his great work. Powerful artists alone will understand that
in this strange saying I speak truth. For this reason a man may often
draw something with his pen on a half sheet of paper in one day, or cut
it with his graver on a small block of wood, and it shall be fuller of
art and better than another's great work whereon he hath spent a whole
year's careful labour.

But it is possible to go far beyond this and say not only "another's
great work," but his own great work.

In the first chapter of this work I said that the standard in works of
art is not truth but sincerity; that if the artist tells us what he
feels to be beautiful, it does not matter how much or how little
comparison it will bear with the actual objects represented. And from
this fact, that sincerity not truth is of prime importance in matters of
expression, results the strange truth that Dürer says will be
recognised by powerful artists alone (see page 227). Any one who
recognises how often the sketches and roughs of artists, especially of
those who are in a peculiar degree creators, excel their finished works
in those points which are the distinctive excellences of such men, will
grant this at once. Only to turn to the sketch (inscribed _Memento Mei
1505_) of _Death_ on horseback with a scythe, or the pen-portrait of
Dürer leaning on his hand, will be enough to convince those who alone
can be convinced on these points. For any who need to explain to
themselves the character of such sketches--as the authoress of a recent
little book on Dürer does that of the pen drawing "in which the boy's
chin rests on his hand" by telling us that "it is unfinished and was
evidently discarded as a failure,"--any who must be at such pains in a
case of this sort is one of those who can never understand wherein the
great power of a work of art resides. Such people may get great pleasure
from works of art; only I am content to remain convinced that the
pleasure they get has no kind of kinship with that which I myself
obtain, or that which the greatest artists most constantly seek to give.
This marvellous portrait of himself as a lad of from seventeen to
nineteen years of age is just one of those things "roughly and rudely
done," of which Dürer speaks. There is probably no parallel to it for
mastery or power among works produced by artists so youthful.

[Illustration: Study of a hound for the copper engraving "St. Eustache."
B. 57 Brush drawing at Windsor]

There is often some virtue in spontaneity which is difficult to define;
perhaps it bears more convincing witness to the artist's integrity than
slower and longer labours, from which it is difficult to ward all
duplicity of intention. The finishing-touch is too often a Judas' kiss.
"Blessed are the pure in heart" is absolutely true in art. (Of course,
I do not use purity in the narrow sense which is confined to avoidance
of certain sensual subjects and seductive intentions.) It is only
poverty of imagination which taboos subject-matter, and lack of charity
that believes there are themes which cannot be treated with any but
ignoble intentions. But the virtue in a spontaneous drawing is akin to
that single devotion to whatever is best, which true purity is; as the
refinement of economy which results in the finished work is akin to that
delicate repugnance to all waste, which is true chastity. A sketch by
Rembrandt of a naked servant girl on a bed is as "simple as the infancy
of truth"--as single in intention. A Greek statue of a raimentless
Apollo is pre-eminently chaste. But it does not follow that Rembrandt
was in his life eminently pure, or the Greek sculptor signal for
chastity. Drawings rapidly executed have often a lyrical, rapturous,
exultant purity, and are for that reason, to those whose eyes are
blinded neither by prejudice nor by misfortune, as captivating as are
healthy, gleeful children to those whose hearts are free. And while the
joy that a child's glee gives is for a time, that which a drawing gives
may well be for ever.

We say a "spirited sketch" as we say "a spirited horse"; but works of
art are instinct with a vast variety of spirits and exert manifold
influences. It is a poverty of language which has confined the use of
this word to one of the most obvious and least estimable. It can be
never too much insisted on that a work of art is something that exerts
an influence, and that its whole merit lies in the quality and degree of
the influence exerted; for those who are not moved by it, it is no more
than a written sentence to one who cannot read.


Many people in turning over a collection of Dürer's drawings would be
constantly crying, "How marvellously realistic!" and would glow with
enthusiasm and smile with gratitude for the perception which these words
expressed. Others would say "merely realistic"; and the words would
convey, if not disapprobation for something shocking, at least
indifference. In both cases the word "realistic" would, I take it, mean
that the objects which the pen, brush, or charcoal strokes represented
were described with great particularity. And in the first case delight
would have been felt at recognising the fulness of detailed information
conveyed about the objects drawn--that each drawing represented not a
generalisation, but an individual. In the other case the mind would have
been repelled by the infatuated insistence on insignificant or
negligible details, the absence of their classification and
subordination to ideas. The first of these two frames of mind is that of
Paul Pry, who is delighted to see, to touch, or behold, for whom
everything is a discovery; and there are members of this class of
temperament who in middle life continue to make the same discoveries
every day with zest and a wonder equal to that which they felt when
children. The second of these frames of mind is that of the man with a
system or in search of a system, who desires to control, or, if he
cannot do that, at least to be taken into the confidence of the
controller, or to gain a position from which he can oversee him, and
approve or disapprove. Now neither of these judgments is in itself
aesthetic, or implies a comprehension of Dürer as an artist.

[Illustration: ME-ENTO MEI, 1505. From the drawing in the British

The man who cries out: "Just look how that is done!" "Who could have
believed a single line could have expressed so much?" judges as an
artist, a craftsman. The man who, like Jean Francois Millet, exclaims:
"How fine! How grand! How delicate! How beautiful!" judges as a creator.
He sees that "it is good." An artist--a creator--may possess either or
even both the two former temperaments; but as an artist he must be
governed by the latter two, either singly or combined. Dürer, doubtless,
had a considerable share in all four of these points of view. He
delighted in objects as such, in the new and the strange as new and
strange, in the intricate as intricate, in the powerful as powerful. And
above all in his drawings does he manifest this direct and childish
interest and curiosity. He was also in search of a system, of an
intellectual key or plan of things; and in the many drawings he devoted
to explaining or developing his ideas of proportion, of perspective, of
architecture, he shows this bias strongly. But nearly every drawing by
him, or attributed to him, manifests the third of these temperaments.
The never-ceasing economy and daring of the invention displayed in his
touch, or, as he would have said, "in his hand," is almost as signal as
his perfect assurance and composure. And when one reflects that he was
not, like Rembrandt, an artist who made great or habitual use of the
spaces of shade and light, but that his workmanship is almost entirely
confined to the expressive power of lines, wonder is only increased. Of
the fourth character that creates and estimates value, though in certain
works Dürer rises to supreme heights, though in almost all his important
works he appeases expectation, yet often where he could surely have done
much better he seems to have been content not to exert his rarest
gifts, but rather to play with or parade those that are secondary. Not
only is this so in drawings like the _Dance of Monkeys_ at Basle, done
to content his friend the reformer Felix Frey (see page 168), and in the
borders designed to amuse Maximilian during the hours that custom
ordained he should pretend to give to prayer; but there are drawings
which were not apparently thrown as sops to the idleness of others, but
done to content some half-vacant mood of his own (see Lippmann, 41, 83,
394, 4.20, 333).

In such drawings the economy and daring of the strokes is always
admirable, can only be compared to that in drawings by Rembrandt and
Hokusai; but the occasion is often idle, or treated with a condescension
which well-nigh amounts to indifference. There is no impressiveness of
allure, no intention in the proportions or disposition on the paper such
as Erasmus justly praised in the engravings on copper, probably
recollecting something which Dürer himself had said (see page 186).

Yet in his portrait heads the right proportions are nearly always found;
and in many cases I believe it is no one but the artist himself who has
cut down such drawings after they were completed, to find a more
harmonious or impressive proportion (see illustration opposite). And
often these drawings are as perfect in the harmony between the means
employed and the aspect chosen, and in the proportion between the head
and the framing line and the spaces it encloses, as Holbein himself
could have made them; while they far surpass his best in brilliancy and

[Illustration: Drawing in black chalk heightened with white on reddish
ground Formerly in the collection at Warwick Castle]

[Illustration: Silver-point drawing on prepared grey ground, in the
collection of Frederick Locker, Esq.]


Something must be said of Dürer's employment of the water-colours,
pen-and-ink, silver-point, charcoal, chalk, &c., with which he made his
drawings. He is a complete master of each and all these mediums, in so
far as the line or stroke may be regarded as the fundamental unit; he is
equally effective with the broad, soft line of chalk (see illustration,
page I.), or the broad broken charcoal line (see illustration, page
II.), as with the fine pen stroke (see illustration, page III.), the
delicate silver-point (see illustration, page IV.), or the supple and
tapering stroke produced by the camel's hair brush (see illustration,
page V.). But when one comes to broad washes, large masses of light and
shade, the expression of atmosphere, of bloom, of light, he is wanting
in proportion as these effects become vague, cloudy, indefinite,
mist-like. His success lies rather in the definite reflections on
polished surfaces; he never reproduces for us the bloom on peach or
flesh or petal. He does not revel, like Rembrandt, in the veils and
mysteries of lucent atmosphere or muffling shadow. The emotions for
which such things produce the most harmonious surroundings he hardly
ever attempts to appeal to; he is mournful and compassionate, or
indignant, for the sufferings, of his Man of Sorrows; not tender,
romantic, or awesome. Only with the tapering tenuity and delicate spring
of the pure line will he sometimes attain to an infantile or virginal
freshness that is akin to the tenderness of the bloom on flowers, or the
light of dawn on an autumn morning.[75]

In the same way, when he is tragic, it is not with thick clouds rent in
the fury of their flight, or with the light from shaken torches cast and
scattered like spume-flakes from the angry waves; nor is it with the
accumulated night that gives intense significance to a single tranquil
ray. Only by a Rembrandt, to whom these means are daily present, could a
subject like the _Massacre of the Ten Thousand_ have been treated with
dramatic propriety; unless, indeed, Michael Angelo, in a grey dawn,
should have twisted and wrung with manifold pain a tribe of giants,
stark, and herded in some leafless primeval valley. With Dürer the
occasion was merely one on which to coldly invent variations, as though
this human suffering was a motive for _an_ arabesque. Yet even from the
days when he copied Andrea Mantegna's struggling sea-monsters, or when
he drew the stern matured warrior angels of his Apocalypse fighting,
with their historied faces like men hardened by deceptions practised
upon them, like men who have forbidden salt tears and clenched their
teeth and closed their hearts, who see, who hate; even from these early
days, the energy of his line was capable of all this, and his
spontaneous sense of arabesque could become menacing and explosive.
There are two or three drawings of angry, crying cupids (Lipp., 153 and
446, see illustration opposite), prepared for some intended picture of
the Crucifixion, where he has made the motive of the winged infants
head, usually associated with bliss and scattered rose-leaves, become
terrible and stormy. And the _Agony in the Garden_, etched on iron,
contains a tree tortured by the wind (see illustration), as marvellous
for rhythm, power, and invention as the blast-whipped brambles and naked
bushes that crest a scarped brow above the jealous husband who stabs his
wife, in Titian's fresco at Padua. Again, the unspeakable tragedy of the
stooping figure of Jesus, who is being dragged by His hair up the steps
to Annas' throne, in the _Little Passion_, is rendered by lines instinct
with the highest dramatic power. These are a draughtsman's creations;
though they are less abundant in Dürer's work than one could wish, still
only the greatest produce such effects; only Michael Angelo, Titian, and
Rembrandt can be said to have equalled or surpassed Dürer in this kind,
rarely though it be that he competes with them.

[Illustration: CHERUB FOR A CRUCIFIXION Black chalk drawing heightened
with white on a blue-grey paper In the collection of Herr Doctor
Blasius, Brunswick]

It is for the intense energy of his line, combined with its unique
assurance, that Dürer is most remarkable. The same amount of detail, the
same correctness in the articulation and relation between stem and leaf,
arm and hand, or what not, might be attained by an insipid workmanship
with lifeless lines, in patient drudgery. It is this fact that those who
praise art merely as an imitation constantly forget. There is often as
much invention in the way details are expressed by the strokes of pen or
brush, as there could be in the grouping of a crowd; the deftness, the
economy of the touches, counts for more in the inspiriting effect than
the truth of the imitation. A photograph from nature never conveys this,
the chief and most fundamental merit of art. Reynolds says:

Rembrandt, in older to take advantage of an accident, appears often to
have used the pallet-knife to lay his colours on the canvas instead of
the pencil. Whether it is the knife or any other instrument, _it
suffices, if it is something that does not follow exactly the will.
Accident, in the hands of_ an artist _who knows horn to take the
advantage of its hints, will often produce bold and capricious beauties
of handling_, and facility such as he would not have thought of or
ventured with his pencil, under the regular restraint of his hand.[76]

In such a sketch as the _Memento Mei_, 1505, (_Death_ riding on
horseback,) all those who have sense for such things will perceive how
the rough paper, combined with the broken charcoal line, lends itself to
qualities of a precisely similar nature to those described by Reynolds
as obtained by Rembrandt's use of the pallet-knife. Yet, just as, in the
use of charcoal, the "something that does not follow exactly the will"
is infinitely more subtle than in the use of the palette-knife to
represent rocks or stumps of trees, so in the pen or silver-point line
this element, though reduced and refined till it is hardly perceptible,
still exists, and Dürer takes "the advantage of its hints." And not only
does he do' this, but he foresees their occurrence, and relies on them
to render such things as crumpled skin, as in the sketches for Adam's
hand holding the apple. (Lipp. 234). The operation is so rapid, so
instantaneous, that it must be called an instinct, or at least a habit
become second nature, while in the instance chosen by Reynolds, it is
obvious and can be imagined step by step; but in every case it is this
capacity to take advantage of the accident, and foresee and calculate
upon its probable occurrences, that makes the handling of any material
inventive, bold, and inimitable. It is in these qualities that an artist
is the scholar of the materials he employs, and goes to school to the
capacities of his own hand, being taught both by their failure to obey
his will here, and by their facility in rendering his subtlest
intentions there. And when he has mastered all they have to teach him,
he can make their awkwardness and defects expressive; as stammerers
sometimes take advantage of their impediment so that in itself it
becomes an element of eloquence, of charm, or even of explicitness;
while the extra attention rendered enables them to fetch about and dare
to express things that the fluent would feel to be impossible and
never attempt.

[Illustration: APOLLO AND DIANA--Pen drawing in the British Museum,
supposed to show the influence of the Belvedere Apollo]


Lastly, it is in his drawings, perhaps, even more than in his copper
engravings, that Dürer proves himself a master of "the art of seeing
nature," as Reynolds phrased it; and the following sentence makes clear
what is meant, for he says of painting "perhaps it ought to be as far
removed from the vulgar idea of imitation, as the refined, civilised
state in which we live is removed from a gross state of nature";[77] and
again: "If we suppose a view of nature, represented with all the truth
of the camera obscura, and the same scene represented by a great artist,
how little and how mean will the one appear in comparison of the other,
where no superiority is supposed from the choice of the subject."[78]
Not only is outward nature infinitely varied, infinitely composite; but
human nature--receptive and creative--is so too, and after we have gazed
at an object for a few moments, we no longer see it the same as it was
revealed to our first glance. Not only has its appearance changed for
us, but the effect that it produces on our emotions and intelligence is
no longer the same. Each successful mind, according to its degree of
culture, arrives finally at a perception of every class of objects
presented to it which is most in agreement with its own nature--that is,
calls forth or nourishes its most cherished energies and efforts, while
harmonising with its choicest memories. All objects in regard to which
it cannot arrive at such a result oppress, depress, or even torment it.
At least this is the case with our highest and most creative moods; but
every man of parts has a vast range of moods, descending from this to
the almost vacant contemplation of a cow--the innocence of whose eye,
which perceives what is before it without transmuting it by recollection
or creative effort, must appear almost ideal to the up-to-date critic
who has recently revealed the innocent confusion of his mind in a
ponderous tome on nineteenth-century art. The art of seeing nature,
then, consists in being able to recognise how an object appears in
harmony with any given mood; and the artist must employ his materials to
suggest that appearance with the least expenditure of painful effort.
The highest art sees all things in harmony with man's most elevated
moods; the lowest sees nature much as Dutch painters and cows do. Now we
can understand what Goethe means when he says that "Albrecht Dürer
enjoyed the advantages of a profound realistic perception, and an
affectionate human sympathy with all present conditions." The man who
continued to feel, after he had become a Lutheran, the beauty of the art
that honoured the Virgin, the man who cannot help laughing at the most
"lying, thievish rascals" whenever they talk to him because "they know
that their knavery is no secret, but 'they don't mind,'" is
affectionate; he is amused by monkeys and the rhinoceros; he can bear
with Pirkheimer's bad temper; he looks out of kindly eyes that allow
their perception of strangeness or oddity to redeem the impression that
might otherwise have been produced by vice, or uncouthness, or
sullen frowns.

I have supposed that a realistic perception was one which saw things
with great particularity; and the words "a profound realistic
perception" to Goethe's mind probably conveyed the idea of such a
perception, in profound accord with human nature, that is where the
human recognition, delight and acceptance followed the perception even
to the smallest details, without growing weary or failing to find at
least a hope of significance in them. If this was what the great critic
meant, those who turn over a collection of Dürer's drawings will feel
that they are profoundly realistic (realistic in a profoundly human
sense), and that their author enjoyed an affectionate human sympathy
with all present conditions; and by these two qualities is infinitely
distinguished from all possessors of so-called innocent eyes, whether
quadruped or biped.

It is well to notice wherein this notion of Goethe's differs from the
conventional notions which make up everybody's criticism. For instance,
"In all his pictures he confined himself to facts," says Sir Martin
Conway,[79] and then immediately qualifies this by adding, "He painted
events as truly as his imagination could conceive them." We may safely
say that no painter of the first rank has ever confined himself to
facts. Nor can we take the second sentence as it stands. Any one who
looks at the _Trinity_ in the Imperial Gallery at Vienna will see at
once that the artist who painted it did not shut his eyes and try to
conjure up a vision of the scene to be represented; the ordering of the
picture shows plainly throughout that a foregone conventional
arrangement, joined with the convenience of the methods of
representation to be employed, dictated nearly the whole composition,
and that the details, costumes, &c., were gradually added, being chosen
to enhance the congruity or variety of what was already given. Perhaps
it was never a prime object with Dürer to conceive the event, it was
rather the picture that he attempted to conceive; it is Rembrandt who
attempts to conceive events, not Dürer. He is very far from being a
realist in this sense: though certain of his etchings possess a
considerable degree of such realism, it is not what characterises him as
a creator or inventor. But a "profound realistic perception" almost
unequalled he did possess; what he saw he painted not as he saw it, not
where he saw it, but as it appeared to him to really be. So he painted
real girls, plain, ugly or pretty as the case might be, for angels, and
put them in the sky; but for their wings he would draw on his fancy.
Often the folds of a piece of drapery so delighted him that they are
continued for their own sake and float out where there is no wind to
support them, or he would develop their intricacies beyond every
possibility of conceivable train or other superfluity of real garments;
and it is this necessity to be richer and more magnificent than
probability permits which brings us to the creator in Dürer; not only
had he a profound realistic perception of what the world was like, but
he had an imagination that suggested to him that many things could be
played with, embroidered upon, made handsomer, richer or more
impressive. When Goethe adds that "he was retarded by a gloomy fantasy
devoid of form or foundation," we perceive that the great critic is
speaking petulantly or without sufficient knowledge. Dürer's gloomy
fantasy, the grotesque element in his pictures and prints, was not his
own creation, it is not peculiar to him, he accepted it from tradition
and custom (see Plate "Descent into Hell"). What is really
characteristic of him is the richness displayed in devils' scales and
wings, in curling hair or crumpled drapery, or flame, or smoke, or
cloud, or halo; and, still more particularly, his is the energy of line
or fertility of invention with which all these are displayed, and the
dignity or austerity which results from the general proportion of the
masses and main lines of his composition.


For the illustration of this volume I have chosen a larger proportion of
drawings than of any other class of work; both because Dürer's drawings
are less widely known than his engravings on metal, and because, though
his fame may perhaps rest almost equally on these latter, and they may
rightly be considered more unique in character, yet his drawings show
the splendid creativeness of his handling of materials in greater
variety. One engraving on copper is like another in the essential
problem that it offered to the craftsman to resolve; but every different
medium in which Dürer made drawings, and every variety of surface on
which he drew, offered a different problem, and perhaps no other artist
can compare with him in the great variety of such problems which he has
solved with felicity. And this power of his to modify his method with
changing conditions is, as we have seen, from the technical side the
highest and greatest quality that an artist can possess. It only fails
him when he has to deal with oil paintings, and even there he shows a
corresponding sense of the nature of the problems involved, if he shows
less felicity on the whole in solving them; and perhaps could he have
stayed at Venice and have had the results of Giorgione's and Titian's
experiments to suggest the right road, we should have been scarcely able
to perceive that he was less gifted as a painter than as draughtsman. As
it is, he has given us water-colour sketches in which the blot is used
to render the foliage of trees in a manner till then unprecedented.
(Lipp. 132, &c.) He can rival Watteau in the use of soft chalk, Leonardo
in the use of the pen, and Van Eyck in the use of the brush point; and
there are examples of every intermediate treatment to form a chain
across the gulf that separates these widely differing modes of graphic
expression. There can be no need to point the application of these
remarks to the individual drawings here reproduced; those who are
capable of recognising it will do so without difficulty.

[Illustration: AN OLD CASTLE Body-dour drawing at Bremen]


In conclusion, Dürer appears as a draughtsman of unrivalled powers. And
when one looks on his drawings as what they most truly were, his
preparation for the tasks set him by the conditions of his life, there
is room for nothing but unmixed admiration. It is only when one asks
whether those tasks might not have been more worthy of such high gifts
that one is conscious of deficiency or misfortune. And can one help
asking whether the Emperor Max might not have given Dürer his Bible or
his Virgil to illustrate, instead of demanding to have the borders of
his "Book of Hours" rendered amusing with fantastic and curious
arabesques; whether Dürer's learned friends, instead of requiring from
him recondite or ceremonious allegories, might not have demanded
title-pages of classic propriety; or whether the imperial bent of his
own imagination might not have rendered their demands malleable, and bid
them call for a series of woodcuts, engravings or drawings, which could
rival Rembrandt's etchings in significance of subject-matter and
imaginative treatment, as they rival them in executive power? In his
portraits--the large majority of which have come down to us only as
drawings, the majority of which were never anything else--the demand
made upon him was worthy; but even here Holbein, a man of lesser gift
and power, has perhaps succeeded in leaving a more dignified, a more
satisfying series; one containing, if not so many masterpieces, fewer on
which an accidental or trivial subject or mood has left its impress.
Yet, in spite of this, it is Dürer's, not Rembrandt's, not Holbein's
character, that impresses us as most serious, most worthy to be held as
a model. It is before his portrait of himself that Mr. Ricketts "forgets
all other portraits whatsoever, in the sense that this perfect
realisation of one of the world's greatest men is worthy of the
occasion." So that we feel bound to attribute our dissatisfaction to
something in his circumstances having hindered and hampered the flow of
what was finest in his nature into his work. From Venice he wrote: "I am
a gentleman here, but only a hanger-on at home." Germany was a better
home for a great character, a great personality, than for a great
artist: Dürer the artist was never quite at home there, never a
gentleman among his peers. The good and solid burghers rated him as a
good and solid burgher, worth so much per annum; never as endowed with
the rank of his unique gift. It was only at Venice and Antwerp that he
was welcomed as the Albert Dürer whom we to-day know, love, and honour.


[Footnote 75: See the exquisite landscape in the collection of Mr. C. S.
Ricketts and Mr. C. H. Shannon, reproduced in the sixth folio of the
Dürer Society, 1903. Mr. Campbell Dodgson describes the drawing as in a
measure spoilt by retouching, but what convinces him that these
retouches are not by Dürer? The pen-work seems to be at once too clever
and too careless to have been added by another hand to preserve a
fading drawing.]

[Footnote 76: XII. Discourse.]

[Footnote 77: XIII, Discourse.]

[Footnote 78: Ibid.]

[Footnote 79: Literary Remains of Albrecht Dürer, p. I 50.]




For the artist or designer the chief difference between the engraving
done on a wood block and that done on metal lies in the thickness of the
line. The engraved line in a wood block is in relief, that on a metal
plate is entrenched; the ink in the one case is applied to the crest of
a ridge, in the other it fills a groove into which the surface of the
paper is squeezed. Though lines almost as fine as those possible on
metal have been achieved by wood engravers, in doing this they force the
nature of their medium, whereas on a copper plate fine lines come
naturally. Perhaps no section of Dürer's work reveals his unique powers
so thoroughly as his engravings on metal. They were entirely his own
work both in design and execution; and no expenditure of pains or
patience seems to have limited his intentions, or to have hindered his
execution or rendered it less vital. And perhaps it is this fact which
witnesses with our spirit and bids us recognise the master: rather than
the comprehension of natural forms which he evinces, subtle and vigorous
though it be; or than the symbols and types which he composed from such
forms for the traditional and novel ideas of his day. And this
unweariable assiduity of his is continually employed in the discovery
of very noble arabesques of line and patterns in black and white, more
varied than the grain in satin wood or the clustering and dispersion of
the stars. Intensity of application, constancy of purpose, when revealed
to us by beautifully variegated surfaces, the result of human toil, may
well impress us, may rightly impress us, more than quaint and antiquated
notions about the four temperaments, or about witches and their
sabbaths, or about virtues and vices embodied in misconceptions of the
characters of pagan divinities, and in legends about them which scholars
had just begun to translate with great difficulty and very ill. It is
the astonishing assurance of the central human will for perfection that
awes us; this perception that flinches at no difficulty, this perception
of how greatly beauty deserves to be embodied in human creations and
given permanence to.


In the encomium which Erasmus wrote of Albert Dürer he dealt, as one
sees by the passage quoted (p. 186), with Dürer's engraved work almost
exclusively. Perhaps the great humanist had seen no paintings by Dürer,
and very likely had heard Dürer himself disparage them, as Melanchthon
tells us was his wont (p. 187). We know that Dürer gave Erasmus some of
his engravings, and we may feel sure that he was questioned pretty
closely as to what were the aims of his art, and wherein he seemed to
himself to have best succeeded. The sentence I underlined (on p. 186)
gives us probably some reflection of Dürer's reply. We must remember
that Erasmus, from his classical knowledge as to how Apelles was
praised, was full of the idea that art was an imitation, and may
probably have refused to understand what Dürer may very likely have told
him in modification of this view; or he may by citing his Greek and
Latin sources have prevented the reverent Dürer from being outspoken on
the point. But though most of his praise seems mere literary
commonplace, the sentence underlined strikes us as having
another source.

"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." How one would like to have heard Dürer, as Erasmus may
probably have heard him, explain the principles on which he composed! No
doubt there is no very radical difference between his sense of
composition and that of other great artists. But to hear one so
preoccupied with explaining his processes to himself discourse on this
difficult subject would be great gain. For though there are doubtless no
absolute rules, and the appeal is always to a refined sense for
proportion,--yet to hear a creator speak of such things is to have this
sense, as it were, washed and rendered delicate once more. We can but
regret that Erasmus has not saved us something fuller than this hint. In
the same way, how tempting is the criticism that Camerarius gives of
Mantegna,--we feel that Dürer's own is behind it; but as it stands it is
disjointed and absurd, like some of the incomplete and confused parables
which give us a glimpse of how much more was lost than was preserved by
the reporters of the sayings of Jesus. It is the same thing with the
reported sayings of Michael Angelo, and indeed of all other great men.
It is impossible to accept "his hand was not trained to follow the
perception and nimbleness of his mind" as Dürer's dictum on Mantegna;
but how suggestive is the allusion to "broken and scattered statues set
up as examples of art," for artists to form themselves upon! Yet the
fact that Dürer missed coming into contact not only with Mantegna but
with Titian, Leonardo, Raphael, Michael Angelo, is indeed the saddest
fact in regard to his life. We can well believe that he felt it in
Mantegna's case. Ah! Why could he not bring himself to accept the
overtures made to him, and become a citizen of Venice?


The subjects of these engravings are even generally trivial or
antiquated, either in themselves or by the way they are approached.
Perhaps alone among them the figure of Jesus, as it is drawn in the
various series on copper and wood illustrating the Passion, is conceived
in a manner which touches us to-day with the directness of a revelation;
and even this cannot be compared to the same figure in Rembrandt
etchings and drawings, either for essential adequacy, or for various and
convincing application. No, we must consent to let the expression "great
thoughts" drop out of our appreciation of Dürer's works, and be replaced
by the "great character" latent in them.

However, one among Dürer's engravings on copper stands out from among
the rest, and indeed from all his works. In the _Melancholy_ the
composition is not more dignified in its spacing and proportion; the
arabesque of line is not richer or sweeter, the variations from black to
white are not more handsome, than in some half dozen of his other
engravings. No, by its conception alone the _Melancholy_ attains to its
unique impressiveness. And it is the impressiveness of an image, not the
impressiveness of an idea or situation, as in the case of the _Knight,
Death, and the Devil_, by which almost as much bad literature has been
inspired. There is nothing to choose between the workmanship of the two
plates; both are absolutely impeccable, and outside the work of Dürer
himself, unrivalled. The _Melancholy_ is the only creation by a German
which appears to me to invite and sustain comparison with the works of
the greatest Italian. In it we have the impressiveness that belongs only
to the image, the thing conceived for mental vision, and addressed to
the eye exclusively. If there was an allegory, or if the plate formed
(as has been imagined) one of a series representative of the four
temperaments, the eye and the visual imagination are addressed with such
force and felicity that the inquiries which attempt to answer these
questions must for ever appear impertinent. They may add some languid
interest to the contemplation which is sated with admiring the
impeccable mastery of the Knight; for that plate always seems to me the
mere illustration of a literary idea, a sheer statement of items which
require to be connected by some story, and some of which have the crude
obviousness of folk-lore symbols, without their racy and genial naïvety.
They have not been fused in the rapture of some unique mood, not
focussed by the intensity of an emotion. With the _Melancholy_ all is
different; perhaps among all his works only Dürer's most haunting
portrait of himself has an equal or even similar power to bind us in its
spell. For this reason I attempt the following comparison between the
_Sibyls_ of the Sistine Chapel and the _Melancholy_ a comparison which I
do not suppose to have any other value or force than that of a stimulant
to the imagination which the works themselves address.

[Illustration: MELANCHOLIA Copper engraving, B. 74]

The impetuosity of his Southern blood drives Michael Angelo to betray
his intention of impressing in the pose and build of his Sibyls. Large
and exceptional women, "limbed" and thewed as gods are, with an habitual
command of gesture, they lift down or open their books or unwind their
scrolls like those accustomed to be the cynosure of many eyes, who have
lived before crowds of inferiors, a spectacle of dignity from their
childhood upwards. On the other hand, the pose and build of the
_Melancholy_ must have been those of many a matron in Nuremberg. It is
not till we come to the face that we find traits that correspond with
the obvious symbolism of the wings and wreath, or the serious richness
of the black and white effect of the composition; but that face holds
our attention as not even the Sibylla Delphica cannot by beauty, not by
conscious inspiration, but by the spell of unanswerable thought, by the
power to brood, by the patience that can and dare go unresolved for many
years. Everything is begun about her; she cannot see unto the end; she
is powerful, she is capable in many works, she has borne children, she
rests from her labours, and her thought wanders, sleeps or dreams. The
spirit of the North, with its industry, its cool-headed calculation, its
abundance in contrivance, its elaboration of duty and accumulation of
possessions--there she sits, absorbed, unsatisfied. Impetuosity and the
frank avowal of intention are themselves an expression of the will to
create that which is desirable; they can but form the habit of every
artist under happy circumstances. They proceed on the expectation of
immediate effectiveness, they belong to power in action; while, if
beauty be not impetuous, she is frank, and adds to the avowal of her
intention the promise of its fulfilment. The work of art and the artist
are essentially open; they promise intimacy, and fulfil that promise
with entirety when successful. Nor is anything so impressive as intimacy
which implies a perfect sincerity, a complete revelation, a gift without
reserve, increase without let. But the circumstances of the artist never
are happy: even Michael Angelo's were not. An intense brooding
melancholy arises from the repressed and baffled desire to create; and
in some measure this gloom of failure underlying their success is a
necessary character of all lovely and spiritual creations in this world.
Now Michael Angelo's works, because of their Southern impetuosity and
volubility, are not so instinct with this divine sorrow, this immobility
of the soul face to face with evil, as is Dürer's _Melancholy_. He
inspires and exhilarates us more, but takes us out of ourselves rather
than leads us home.

Here is Dürer's success: let and hindered as it really is, he makes us
feel the inalienable constancy of rational desire, watching adverse
circumstance as one beast of prey watches another. She keeps hold on the
bird she has caught, the ideal that perhaps she will never fully enjoy.
Michael Angelo pictures for us freedom from trammels, the freedom that
action, thought and ecstasy give, the freedom that is granted to beauty
by all who recognise it; Dürer shows us the constancy that bridges the
intervals between such free hours, that gives continuity to man's
necessarily spasmodic effort. Thus he typifies for us the Northern
genius: as Michael Angelo's athletes might typify by their naked beauty
and the unexplained impressiveness of their gestures, the genius of the
sudden South--sudden in action, sudden in thought, suddenly mature,
suddenly asleep--as day changes to night and night to day the more
rapidly as the tropics are approached.

[Illustration: Detail enlarged from the "Agony in the Garden." Etching on
Iron, B. 19 _Between_ pp. 250 & 251]

[Illustration: ANGEL WITH THE SUDARIUM Engraving in Iron, 1516. B. 26
_Between_ pp. 250 & 251]

Instances of the highest imaginative power are rare in Dürer's work. The
_Melancholy_ has had a world-wide success. The _Knight, Death and the
Devil_ has one almost equal, but which is based on the facility with
which it is associated with certain ideas dear to Christian culture,
rather than on the creation of the mood in which these ideas arise. It
does not move us until we know that it is an illustration of Erasmus's
Christian Knight. Then all its dignity and mastery and the supremacy of
the gifts employed on it are brought into touch with the idea, and each
admirer operates, according to his imaginativeness, something of the
transformation which Dürer had let slip or cool down before
realising it.


Among the prints with lesser reputations are several which attain a far
higher success. There is the iron plate of the _Agony in the Garden,_ B.
19, already mentioned (p. 235), in which the storm-tortured tree and the
broken light and shade are full of dramatic power (see illustration),
the _Angel with the Sudarium_, B. 26, where the arabesque of the folds
of drapery and cloud unite with the daring invention of the central
figure to create a mood entirely consonant with the subject. There is
the woman carried off by a man on an unicorn, in which the turbulence of
the subject is expressed with unrivalled force by the rich and beautiful
arabesque and black and white pattern.

B. Nos. 4, 5, 6, 8, 9, 10, 11, 14, 16, 18, of the _Little Passion_, on
copper, are all of them noteworthy successes of more or less the same
kind; and in these, too, we come upon that racy sense for narration
which can enhance dramatic import by emphasising some seemingly trivial
circumstance, as in the gouty stiffness of one of Christ's scourgers in
the _Flagellation_, or the abnormal ugliness of the man who with such
perfect gravity holds the basin while Pilate _washes his hands:_ while
in the _Crown of Thorns_ and _Descent into Hades_ we have peculiarly
fine and suitable black and white patterns, and in the _Peter and John
at the Beautiful Gate_[80] and the _Ecce Homo_ figures of monumental
dignity in tiny gems of glowing engraver's work. The repose and serenity
of the lovely little _St. Antony_;[81] the subsidence of commotion in
the noonday victory of the little _St. George on foot_, B. 53--perhaps
the most perfect diamond in the whole brilliant chain of little plates,
or the staid naïvety of the enchanting _Apollo and Diana_, B. 68;[82]
who shall prefer among these things? Every time we go through them we
choose out another until we return to the most popular and slightly
obvious _St. George on Horseback_, B. 54. Next come the dainty series of
little plates in honour of Our Lady the Mother of God, commencing before
Dürer made a rule of dating his plates; before 1503 and continuing till
after 1520, in which the last are the least worthy. Among these the
Virgin embracing her Child at the foot of a tree, B. 34, dated 1513; The
Virgin standing on the crescent moon, her baby in one arm, her sceptre
in the other hand and the stars of her crown blown sideways as she bows
her head, B. 32, dated 1516, and the stately and monumental Virgin
seated by a wall, B. 40, dated 1514, are at present my favourites. And
to these succeeded the noble army of Apostles and Martyrs of which the
more part are dated from 1521 to 1526, though two, B. 48 and 50, fall as
early as 1514.

[Illustration: THE SMALL HORSE--Copper Engraving, B. 96]

Then amongst the most perfect larger plates I cannot refrain from
mentioning the _St. Jerome_, B. 60, with its homely seclusion as of
Dürer's own best parlour in summer time which not even the presence of a
lion can disturb; the idyllic and captivating _St. Hubert_, B. 57; the
august and tranquil _Cannon_, B. 99: and lastly, perhaps, in the little
_Horse_, B. 96, we come upon a theme and motive of the kind best suited
to Dürer's peculiar powers, in which he produces an effect really
comparable to those of the old Greek masters, about whose lost works he
was so eager for scraps of information, and whose fame haunted him even
into his slumbers, so that he dreamed of them and of those who should
"give a future to their past." This delightful work may illustrate an
allegory now grown dark or some misconception of a Grecian story; but
though the relation between the items that compose it should remain for
ever unexplained, its beauty, like that of some Greek sculpture that has
been admired under many names, continues its spell, and speaks of how
the simplicity, austerity and noble proportions of classical art were
potent with the spirit of the great Nuremberg artist, and occasionally
had free way with him, in spite of all there was in his circumstances
and origins to impede or divert them. (See also the spirited drawing,
Lipp. 366.)


It would be idle to attempt to say something about every masterpiece in
Dürer's splendidly copious work on metal plates. There is perhaps not
one of these engravings that is not vital upon one side or another,
amazingly few that are not vital upon many. One other work, however,
which has been much criticised and generally misunderstood, it may be as
well to examine at more length, especially as it illustrates what was
often Dürer's practice in regard to his theories about proportion, with
which my next Part will deal. I speak of the _Great Fortune_ or
_Nemesis_ (B. 77). His practice at other times is illustrated by the
splendid _Adam and Eve_ (B. 1), over the production of which the nature
of the canon he suggested was perhaps first thoroughly worked out. But
before this and afterwards too he no doubt frequently followed the
advice he gives in the following passage.

To him that setteth himself to draw figures according to this book, not
being well taught beforehand, the matter will at first become hard. Let
him then put a man before him, who agreeth, as nearly as may be, _with
the proportions he desireth_; and let him draw him in outline according
to his knowledge and power. And a man is held to have done well if he
attain accurately to copy a figure according to the life, so that his
drawing resembleth the figure and is like unto nature. _And in
particular if the thing copied as beautiful; then is the copy held to be
artistic_, and, as it deserveth, it is highly praised.

Dürer himself would seem to have very often followed his own advice in
this. The _Great Fortune_ or Nemesis is a case in point. The remarks of
critics on this superb engraving are very strange and wide. Professor
Thausing said, "Embodied in this powerful female form, the Northern
worship of nature here makes its first conscious and triumphant
appearance in the history of art." With the work of the great Jan Van
Eyck in one's mind's eye, of course this will appear one of those
little lapses of memory so convenient to German national sentiment.
"Everything that, according to our aesthetic formalism based on the
antique, we should consider beautiful, is sacrificed to truth." (I have
already pointed out that this use of the word "truth" in matters of art
constitutes a fallacy)[83] "And yet our taste must bow before the
imperishable fidelity to nature displayed in these forms, the fulness of
life that animates these limbs." Of course, "imperishable fidelity to
nature" and "taste that bows before it" are merely the figures of a
clumsy rhetoric. But the idea they imply is one of the most common of
vulgar errors in regard to works of art. In the first place one must
remind our enthusiastic German that it is an engraving and not a woman
that we are discussing; and that this engraving is extremely beautiful
in arabesque and black and white pattern, rich, rhythmical and
harmonious; and that there is no reason why our taste should be violated
in having to bow submissively before such beauties as these, which it is
a pleasure to worship. Now we come to the subject as presented to the
intelligence, after the quick receptive eye has been satiated with
beauty. Our German guide exclaims, "Not misled by cold definite rules of
proportion, he gave himself up to unrestrained realism in the
presentation of the female form." Our first remark is, that though the
treatment of this female form may perhaps be called realistic, this
adjective cannot be made to apply to the figure as a whole. This
massively built matron is winged; she stands on a small globe suspended
in the heavens, which have opened and are furled up like a garment in a
manner entirely conventional. She carries a scarf which behaves as no
fabric known to me would behave even under such exceptional and
thrilling circumstances.

Dr. Carl Giehlow has recently suggested that this splendid engraving
illustrates the following Latin verses by Poliziano:

  Est dea, quse vacuo sublimis in aëre pendens
  It nimbo succincta latus, sed candida pallam,
  Sed radiata comam, ac stridentibus insonat alis.
  Haec spes immodicas premit, haec infesta superbis
  Imminet, huic celsas hominum contundere mentes
  Incessusque datum et nimios turbare paratus.
  Quam veteres Nemesin genitam de nocte silenti
  Oceano discere patri. Stant sidera fronti.
  Frena manu pateramque gerit, semperque verendum
  Ridet et insanis obstat contraria coeptis.
  Improba vota domans ac summis ima revolvens
  Miscet et alterna nostros vice temperat actus.
  Atque hue atque illuc ventorum turbine fertur.

There is a goddess, who, aloft in the empty air, advances girdled about
with a cloud, but with a shining white cloak and a glory in her hair,
and makes a rushing with her wings. She it is who crushes extravagant
hopes, who threatens the proud, to whom is given to beat down the
haughty spirit and the haughty step, and to confound over-great
possessions. Her the men of old called Nemesis, born to Ocean from the
womb of silent Night. Stars stand upon her forehead. In her hand she
bears bridles and a chalice, and smiles for ever with an awful smile,
and stands resisting mad designs. Turning to nought the prayers of the
wicked and setting the low above the high she puts one in the other's
place and rules the scenes of life with alternation. And she is borne
hither and thither on the wings of the whirlwind.

If this suggestion is a good one it shows us that Dürer was no more
consistently literal than he was realistic. The most striking features
of his illustration are just those to which his text offers no
counterpart, i.e., the nudity and physical maturity of his goddess.
Neither has he girdled her about with cloud nor stood stars upon her
forehead. I must confess that I find it hard to believe that there was
any close connection present to his mind between his engraving and
these verses.

In a former chapter I have spoken of the fashion in female dress then
prevalent; how it underlined whatever is most essential in the physical
attributes of womanhood, and how probably something of good taste is
shown in this fashion (see pp. 92 and 93). What I there said will
explain Dürer's choice in this matter; and also that what Thausing felt
bow in him was not taste, but his prejudices in regard to womanly
attractiveness, and his misconception as to where the beauty of an
engraving should be looked for and in what it consists. These same
prejudices and misconceptions render Mrs. Heaton (as is only natural in
one of the weaker sex) very bold. She says, "A large naked winged woman,
whose ugliness is perfectly repulsive." This object, I must confess,
appears to me, a coarse male, "welcome to contemplation of the mind and
eye." The splendid Venus in Titian's _Sacred and Profane Love_, or his
_Ariadne_ at Madrid; or Raphael's _Galatea_; or Michael Angelo's _Eve_
(on the Sistine vault) are all of them doubtless far more akin to the
_Aphrodite_ of Praxiteles, or to her who crouches in the Louvre, than is
this _Nemesis_; but we must not forget that they are works on a scale
more comparable with a marble statue; and that in works of which the
scale is more similar to that of our engraving, Greek taste was often
far more with Dürer than with Thausing. This is an important point,
though one which is rarely appreciated. However, there is no reason why
we should condemn "misled by cold definite rules of taste" even such
pictures as Rembrandt's _Bathing Woman_ in the Louvre, though here the
proportions of the work are heroic. Oil painting was an art not
practised by the Greeks, and this medium lends itself to beauties which
their materials put entirely out of reach. Besides, Rembrandt appealed
to an audience who had been educated by Christian ideals to appreciate a
pathos produced by the juxtaposition of the fact with the ideal, and of
the creature with the creator, to appeal to which a Greek would have had
to be far more circumspect in his address--even if he had, through an
exceptional docility and receptiveness of character, come under its
influence himself. These considerations when apprehended will, I
believe, suffice to dispel both prejudice and misconception in regard to
this matter; and we shall find in Professor Thausing's remarks relative
to the treatment of the "female form divine" in this engraving no
additional reason for considering it a comparatively early work. And we
shall only smile when he tells us "The _Nemesis_ to a certain _degree_
(sic) marks the extreme _point_ (sic) reached by Dürer in his unbiased
study of the nude. His further progress became more and more influenced
by his researches into the proportions of the human body." The bias will
appear to us of rather more recent date, and we shall be ready to
consider with an open mind how far Dürer's practice was influenced for
good or evil by his researches into the proportions of the human body.


[Footnote 80: See page 258.]

[Footnote 81: See page 260.]

[Footnote 82: See Frontispiece.]

[Footnote 83: See page 19.]



It is now generally accepted that Dürer did not himself engrave on wood.
In his earliest blocks he shows a greater respect for the limitations of
this means of expression than later on. The earliest wood blocks, though
no doubt they aimed at being facsimiles, were not such in fact; but the
engraver took certain liberties for his own convenience, and probably
did not attempt to render what Dürer calls "the hand" of the designer.
"The hand" was equivalent to what modern artists call "the touch," and
meant the peculiar character recognisable in the vast majority of the
strokes or marks which each artist uses in drawing or painting. Dürer
affected extremely curved and rapid strokes, Mantegna the deliberate
straight line, Rembrandt the straight stroke used so as to seem a
continual improvisation; though indeed he varies the character of his
touch more continually and more vastly than any other master, yet in his
drawings and etchings the majority of the strokes are straight. Already
in the woodcuts provided by Michael Wolgemut, Dürer's master, to
illustrate books, there is a general attempt to render cross hatching:
and the eyes and hair, though still those of an engraver, are
frequently modified to some extent in deference to the character given
by the draughtsman. Still, no one with practical experience would
consider these woodcuts as adequate facsimiles: which makes the question
of their attribution to Wolgemut, or his partner and step-son,
Pleydenwurff, of still less interest and importance than it is on all
other grounds. So conscious an exception as the soul of the accurate
Albert Dürer was, could not be expected to endure a partner in his
creations, especially one whose character was revealed chiefly by the
clumsy compromises convenient to lack of skill. Doubtless the demand for
"his hand" was a new factor in the education of the engraver, as
constant and as imperturbable as the action of a copious stream, which,
having its source in lonely heights, wears a channel through the hardest
rock, the most sullen soils. It may have been the pitiless tyranny of
the master's will for perfection which drove Hieronymus Andreae, "the
most famous of Dürer's wood engravers," into religious and even civil
rebellion, joining hands with levelling fanatics and taking active part
in the Peasant War. Dürer probably would have commanded too much
reverence and affection for these rebellions to be directed against him;
but an insupportably heavy yoke is not rendered lighter because it is
imposed by a loved hand,--though every other burden and restraint may in
such a case be shaken off and resented before that which is the real
cause of oppression. Dürer's wood cutters had no doubt to resign any
indolence, any impatience, or whatever else it might be that had
otherwise stamped a personal character on their work; and all
remonstrance must have been shamed by the evident fact that the young
master spared himself not a whit more. The perseverance and docility
which made such engraving possible was perhaps the greatest aid that
Dürer drew from German character; it was not only an aid, but an example
to and restraint upon that haughty spirit of his that restively ever
again vows never to take so much pains over another picture to be so
poorly paid (see page 103); that complains of failure and discouragement
after years of repeatedly more world-wide successes (see page 187).
These are not German traits, but it may have been the German blood he
inherited from his mother and the example of his friends,
fellow-workers, and helpers, which enabled him to get the better of such
petulant and gloomy outbursts, and return to the day of small things
with the will to continue and endure.

The difference introduced by the engravers becoming more and more
capable of rendering Dürer's hand is well illustrated by comparing the
frontispiece to the _Apocalypse_, added about 1511, with the other cuts
which had appeared in 1498. Doubtless Dürer's hand had changed its
character considerably during this period of constant and rapid
development, and it requires tact and knowledge to separate the
differences due to the creator from those due to the engraver. Dürer's
drawings differed as widely from the earlier drawings as does the
engraving from the earlier blocks. But, as we may see by early drawings
done as preliminary studies for engravings, the method of his pen
strokes had changed less than the character of the forms they rendered;
the conception of the design as a whole had advanced more rapidly than
the skill and sleight of hand which expressed it. The engraver has by
1511 become capable of expressing a greater variety of speed in the
stroke, makes it taper more finely, and can follow the tongue-like lap
and flicker as the pen rises and dips again before leaving the surface
of the block (as in the outer ends of the strokes that represent the
radiance of the Virgin's glory). Holbein, later on, was to obtain a yet
more wonderful fidelity from Lutzelburger, the engraver of his _Dunce
of Death_.

Still it were misleading to suppose that Dürer's disregard for the
facilities and limitations of wood-cutting went the lengths that the
demands made upon modern skill have gone. Not only has the line been
reproduced, but it has been drawn not with a full pen or brush, but in
pencil or with watered ink; and the delicate tones thus produced have
been demanded of and rendered by human skill. Dürer always uses a clear
definite stroke; and in thus limiting himself he shows an appreciation
of the medium to be used in reproducing his drawing, and recognises its
limits to a large extent, though this is the only limitation he accepts.
Less and less does he consider the possibilities which engraving offers
for the use of a white line on black Doing his drawing with a black
line, he contents himself with the qualities that the resources and
facilities of the full pen line give: and his design is for a drawing
which can be cut on wood, not for something that first really exists in
the print; the prints are copies of his drawings. His drawings were not
prepared to receive additions in the course of cutting, such as could
only be rendered by the engraver. Faithfulness was the only virtue he
required of Hieronymus Andreae. Yet even in such drawings as Dürer's no
doubt were, there would have been some qualities, some defects perhaps,
that the print does not possess. For a print, from the mode of inking,
has a breadth and unity which the drawing never can have. Even in
drawings made with full flowing brush or pen, there will be
modulations in the strength of the ink, or occasioned by the surface of
the wood or paper, in every stroke, by which the, sensitive artist in
the heat of work cannot help being influenced, and which will lead him
to give a bloom, a delicacy, to his drawing, such as a print can never
possess. And, on the other hand, the unity of the print can never be
quite realised in the drawing, however much the artist may strive to
attain it, because the conditions must change, however slightly, for
strokes produced in succession; while in a print all are produced
together, and variations, if variations there are, occur over wide
spaces and not between stroke and stroke. It is considerations, of this
kind that in the last resort determine the quality of works of art. The
artist is taught, though often unconsciously, by the means he employs,
but the diligent man who is not by nature an artist never can learn
these things: he can Imitate the manner and form, never the grace, the
bloom, and the life.

[Illustration: THE APOCALYPSE, 1498 St. Michael fighting the Dragon,
Woodcut, B. 72 From the impression in the British Museum Face p. 262]


Dürer's first important issue of woodcuts was the _Apocalypse_. A great
deal has been written in praise of this production as a political
pamphlet against the corrupt Papacy. It was undoubtedly the most
important series of woodcuts that had ever appeared, by the size, number
and elaboration of the designs. It also undoubtedly attacks
ecclesiastical corruption, but not ecclesiastical only. Whether to Dürer
and his friends it appeared even chiefly directed against prelates, or
even against those who sat in high places; whether the popes, bishops
and figures typical of the Church seemed to him to illustrate the moral
in any pre-eminent degree, may be doubted. Still more doubtful is it
whether there was any objection to papacy or priesthood as institutions
connected with these figures in his mind. Unworthy popes, unworthy
bishops, and an unworthy Rome were censured: but not popes, bishops, or
Rome as the capital see of the Church. Dürer's work as a whole shows no
distaste for saints, the Virgin, or bishops and popes; he had no
objection, no scruple apparently, to introducing the notorious Julius
II. into his _Feast of the_ Rosary, some ten years later. There has
perhaps been a tendency to read the intention of these designs too much
in the light of after events: and by so doing a great slur is cast on
Dürer's consistency; for, had these designs the significance read into
them, he must be supposed an altogether convinced enemy of the Church;
and the tremendous salaams which he afterwards made to her in far more
important works ought, to logical minds, to appear horribly insincere.

Viewed as works of art, one reads about the cut of the four riders upon
horses, "For simple grandeur this justly famous design has never been
surpassed." One's sense of proportion receives such a shock as gives one
the sensation of being utterly outcast, in a world where such a precious
dictum can pass without remark as a sample of the discrimination of the
chief authority on the life and art of Albert Dürer. Neither simple nor
grand is an adjective applicable to this print in the sense in which we
apply it to the chief masterpieces of antiquity and of the Renaissance.
To say even that Dürer never surpassed this design is to utter what to
me at least seems the most palpable absurdity. There is an immense
advance in design, in conception and in mastery of every kind shown over
the best prints of the _Apocalypse_ and _Great Passion_, in the
prints added to the latter series ten years later, and still more in the
_Life of the Virgin_. And still finer results are arrived at in single
cuts of later date, and in the _Little Passion_. If we want to see what
Dürer's woodcuts at their finest are for breadth and dignity of
composition, for richness and fertility of arabesque and black and white
pattern, for vigour and subtlety of form, for boldness and vivacity of
workmanship, we must turn to the _Samson_ (1497?) (B. 2), the Man's
_Bath_ (14-?), (B. 128), among the earlier blocks published before the
_Apocalypse_, then to those designed in or about the year 1511. The
golden period for Dürer's woodcuts, the date of the publication of his
most magnificent series, the _Life of the Virgin_ and several delightful
separate prints. Among these we find it hard to choose, but if some must
be mentioned let it be the _St. Joachim's Offering Rejected by the High
Priest_ (B. 77), the _Meeting at the Golden Gate_ (B. 79) (see
illustration), the _Marriage of the Virgin_ (B. 82), the _Visitation_
(B. 84), the _Nativity_ (B. 85) (see illustration), the _Presentation_
(B. _55_), the _Flight into Egypt_ (B. 89).

[Illustration: Detail enlarged from "Nativity."--"Life of the Virgin"
Woodcut, B. 85]

[Illustration: Enlarged detail from "The Embrace of St. Joachim and St.
Anne at the Golden Gate."--"Life of the Virgin," Woodcut, B. 79]

In the glorious masterpieces of this series Dürer has found the true
balance of his powers. The dignity and charm of the decorative effect of
these cuts has never been surpassed; and to the racy narrative vivacity
of such groups and figures as those isolated and enlarged in our
illustration there is added an idyllic charm of which perhaps the best
examples are the _Visitation_ and the _Flight into Egypt_. This
sweetness of allure is still more pervasive in the separate cuts that
bear this golden date, 1511, that is in the _St. Christopher_ (B. 103),
and the _St. Jerome_ (B. 114). And the _Adoration of the Magi_ (B. 3) is
much finer than the one included in the _Life of the Virgin_. This
idyllic charm had already been touched _upon before_ in the _Assumption
of the Magdalen_ (B. 121) (15?), and in the _St. Antony_ and _St. Paul_
and the _Baptist_ and _St. Onuphrius of_ 1504. It is not felt to lie
very deep in the conception of the subject, for all are treated in an
obviously conventional manner, the touches of racy realism being
confined to subordinate incidents and details. Neither the subjects nor
the mood of the artist lend themselves to the dramatic impressiveness of
such cuts as the _Blowing of the Sixth Trumpet_ or the _St. Michael
overwhelming the Dragon of the Apocalypse_ (_see_ page 262), where the
inspiration appears to be Gothic, perhaps developed under the influence
of Mantegna's _Combat between Sea Monsters_, of which Dürer early made
an elaborate pen-and-ink copy. We find an aftermath of the same
inspiration in the engraving on iron, dated 1516, representing a man
riding astride of an unicorn carrying off a shrieking woman. Such stormy
and strenuous lowerings of the imagination break in upon Dürer's
habitual mood as St. Peter's thunders into Milton's "Lycidas," of which
the general felicitous mingling of a conventional pedantry with idyllic
charm and racy touches of realistic effect is very similar to the
general effect of the golden group we have been describing. Among all
the work that finds its climax in the beautiful creations of 1511, only
in a few prints of the _Little Passion_, published in 1511, do we find
any dramatic power or creativeness of essential conception. I may
mention the _Christ Scourging the Money-changers in the Temple_, the
_Agony in the Garden_, and Judas' _Kiss_, where, though the general
effect be rather confused, the central figure is full of appropriate
power. _Christ haled by the hair before_ _Annas_ (the most wonderful
of all), Christ before _Pilate_, Christ _Mocked_, the _Ecce Homo_ (a
most beautiful composition), the Veronica's napkin incident, _Christ_
being nailed _to the Cross_ (a masterpiece), the _Deposition_, the
_Entombment_:--several others of the series have idyllic charm or
touches of narrative force which link them with the general group, but
these alone stand out and in some ways surpass it. After this date Dürer
seems in a great measure to have relinquished wood for metal engraving;
however, most of his occasional resumptions of the process were marked
by the production of masterpieces, if we put on one side the workshop
monsters produced for Maximilian--and even in these, in details, Dürer's
full force is recognisable. I may mention the _Madonna_ crowned and
_worshipped by a concert of Angels_, 1518 (B. 101), which, though a
little cold, like all the work of that period, is still a masterpiece;
and then, after the inspiriting visit to Antwerp, we have the
magnificent portrait of Ulrich Varnbüler, 1522 (B. 155), the _Last
Supper_, 1523 (B. 53) (see illustration here), and the glorious piece of
decoration representing Dürer's Arms, 1523 (B. 160) (see illustration).
I have reproduced less of Dürer's wood engravings than would be
necessary to represent their importance and beauty, because most, being
large and bold, are greatly impoverished by reduction; besides, they are
nearly all well known through comparatively cheap reproductions. I have
enlarged two details to give an idea of Dürer's workmanship when
employed upon racy realism (see illustration, page 264), and when
employed in endowing a single figure with supreme grace and dignity (see
illustration, page 265).

[Illustration: Christ haled before Annas From the "Little
Passion"--_Between_ pp. 266 & 267]

[Illustration: DÜRER'S ARMORIAL BEARINGS Woodcut, B. 160]




Before closing this part of my book something must be said of Dürer's
influence on other artists. It is one of the foibles of modern criticism
to please itself by tracing influences, a process of the same nature as
that of tracing resemblances to ferns and other growths on a frosted
pane. No one would deny that resemblances are there; it is to
distinguish them and estimate their significance without yielding to
fancifulness, which is the well-nigh hopeless task. It is often
forgotten that similar circumstances produce similar effects, and that
coincidences from this cause are very rife. Then, too, it is forgotten
that the influence that produces rivalry is stronger, more important,
and less easily estimated, than that which is expressed by imitation or
plagiarism; besides, it affects more original and fertile natures. The
stimulus of a great creative personality often is more potent where
discernible resemblances are few and vague, than where they are many and
obvious. In Dürer's day the study and imitation of antique art which had
brought about the Renascence in Italy was the fashion that in successive
waves was passing over Europe and moulding the future. He himself felt
it, and welcomed it now as an authority not to be gainsaid, and again
as an example to be competed against and surpassed. This fashion, this
trend of opinion and hope, was the significance behind the effect
produced on him by Jacopo de' Barbari, whose charming but ineffectual
originality succeeded merely in creating an eddy in that stream. It was
the tide behind him which so powerfully stirred and stimulated Dürer.
The resemblances traceable between certain still life studies by the two
men, or even in figures of their engravings, is insignificant compared
with the fact that through Jacopo Dürer probably first felt the energy
and true direction of the great tidal waves which were then rolling
forth from Italy. Even Mantegna's influence was probably less the effect
of a personal affinity than that through him a power streamed direct
from the antique dawn. This great and master influence of those days was
more one of hope, indefinite, incomprehensible, visionary, than one of
knowledge and assured discovery. Raphael may have received it from
Dürer, as well as Dürer from Bellini. Figures and incidents from Dürer's
engravings are supposed to have been adapted in certain works, if not of
his own hand at least proceeding from his immediate pupils. For Raphael,
Dürer was a proof of the excellence of human nature in respect to the
arts, even when it could not form itself on the immediate study and
contemplation of antiques, and thus added to the zest and expectation
with which he improved himself in that direction. These great men did
not distinguish clearly between pregnancy due to their own efforts, that
of their contemporaries and immediate predecessors, and that due to
their more mystic passion for antiquity. Michael Angelo, Titian, and
Correggio were destined to be the signets by which this great power was
to be most often and clearly stamped on the work of future artists.
From the unhappy location of his life Dürer was debarred from any such
obvious and overwhelming effect on after generations. The influences
which helped to shape him were no doubt at work on all the more eminent
artists, his fellow-countrymen; on Albrecht Altdorfer, Hans Burgkmair,
Lucas Cranach, or Baldung Grien, to mention only the elect. What the
stimulus of his achievements, of his renown, meant for these men we have
no means of computing; yet we may feel sure that it was vastly more
important and significant than any actual traces of imitation or
plagiarism from his works, which can with difficulty and for the more
part very doubtfully be brought home to them;--vastly more important and
significant too we may be sure than his effect upon his pupils and other
more or less obscure painters, engravers, and block designers, in whose
work actual imitation or adaption of his creations is more certain and
more abundant. His pictures, plates, and woodcuts were copied both in
Italy and in the North, both as exercises for the self-improvement of
artists and to supply a demand for even secondhand reflections of his
genius and skill. He was not destined to lend the impress of his
splendid personality to the tide of fashion like the great Italians;
their influence was to supersede his even in the North.

This is obvious: but who shall compare or estimate the accession of
force which the tide as a whole gained from him, or that more latent
power which begins to be disengaged from the reserve and lack of proper
issue from which he evidently suffered, now that the great tide of the
Renaissance has spent its mighty onrush and become merged in the
constant movement of life--that power by which he moves us to
commiserate his circumstances and to feel after the more and better,
which we cannot doubt that he might have given us had he been more
happily situated?

[Illustration: THE LAST SUPPER Woodcut, p. 53]


Only to compare the value of Michael Angelo's sonnets with that of the
doggerel rhymes which Dürer produced, may give us some idea of the
portentous inferiority in Dürer's surroundings to those of the great
Italian. Both borrow the general idea of the subject, treatment, and
form of their poems from the fashion around them. But that fashion in
Michael Angelo's case called for elevated subject, intimate and
imaginative treatment, and adequacy of form, whereas none of these were
called for from Albrecht Dürer; and if his friends laughed at the
rudeness of his verses, it was not that they themselves conceived of
anything more adequate in these respects, only something more scholarly,
more pedantic. Michael Angelo's verse was often crabbed and rude, but
the scholarship and pedantry of Italy forbore to laugh at that rudeness,
because a more adequate standard made them recognise its vital power and
noble passion as of higher importance to true success. Still, in the
following rhymes, Dürer shows himself a true child of the Renascence, at
least in intention; and was proud of a desire for universal excellence.

When I received this from Lazarus Spengler, I made him the following
poem in reply (Mrs. Heaton's translation):

  In Nürnberg it is known full well
  A man of letters now doth dwell,
  One of our Lord's most useful men,
  He is so clever with his pen,
  And others knows so well to hit,
  And make ridiculous with wit;
  And he has made a jest of me,
  Because I made some poetry,
  And of True Wisdom something wrote,
  But as he likes my verses not,
  He makes a laughing stock of me,
  And says I'm like the Cobbler, he
  Who criticised Apelles' art.
  With this he tries to make me smart,
  Because he thinks it is for me
  To paint, and not write poetry.
  But I have undertaken this
  (And will not stop for him or his),
  To learn whatever thing I can,
  For which will blame me no wise man.
  For he who only learns one thing,
  And to naught else his mind doth bring,
  To him, as to the notary,
  It haps, who lived here as do we,
  In this our town. To him was known
  To write one form and one alone.
  Two men came to him with a need
  That he should draw them up a deed;
  And he proceeded very well,
  Until their names he came to spell:
  Gotz was the first name that perplexed,
  And Rosenstammen was the next.
  The Notary was much astonished,
  And thus his clients he admonished,
  "Dear friends," he said, "you must be wrong,
  These names don't to my form belong;
  Franz and Fritz[84] I know full well,
  But of no others have heard tell."
  And so he drove away his clients,
  And people mocked his little science.
  To me that it may hap not so,
  Something of all things I will know.
  Not only writing will I do,
  But learn to practise physic too;
  Till men surprised will say, "Beshrew me,
  What good this painter's medicines do me!"
  Therefore hear and I will tell
  Some wise receipts to keep you well.
  A little drop of alkali,
  Is good to put into the eye;
  He who finds it hard to hear,
  Should mandel-oil put in his ear;
  And he who would from gout be free,
  Not wine but water drink should he;
  He who would live to be a hundred,
  Will see my counsel has not blundered.
  Therefore I will still make rhymes
  Though my friend may laugh at times.
  So the Painter with hairy beard
  Says to the Writer who mocked and jeered.


[Footnote 84: Equivalent to our John Doe and Richard Roe.]






Dürer often painted the Virgin's head as a mere exercise or example in
those proportion studies with which we must presently deal.

Sir W. M. CONWAY, in "Dürer's Literary Remains," p. 151.

As soon as he comes to speak of the very essence of artistic work, he
forgets theories and imitations of the antique; he knows nothing of
composition from fragments of Nature, of measurements and speculations.
No longer trusting to such aids as these, but launching himself boldly
on the broad stream of Nature, he believes that he shall attain to a
higher harmony in his work.

THAUSING'S "Albert Dürer," vol. ii., p. 318.


The idea of a canon for human proportions has proved a great
stumbling-block for so-called classical or academic artists. It is
usually taken to mean an absolutely right or harmonious proportion, any
deviation from which cannot fail to result in a diminution of beauty.
According to their thoroughness, the devotees of this idea seek to
arrive at such a scale of proportions for a varying number of different
ages in either sex; often even modifying this again for diverse types,
as tall or short, fat or lean, dark or blonde, but allowing no excessive
variation for these causes; so that abnormally tall people and dwarfs
are not considered. This is, I take it, what the great artist Albert
Dürer is generally taken to have been aiming at in his books on
proportion. It will not be difficult, I think, to show that Dürer had
quite a different idea of what a canon of proportion should be, and how
it should be applied. And certainly, had it been possible to study Greek
practice more closely, and in a larger number of examples, when this
idea (supposed to be drawn from that source) was chiefly mooted, a very
different notion of the canon of proportion would have been forced on
the most academical of theorists. Dürer's great superiority over such
academical masters is, that his idea of a canon of proportion and its
use agrees far better with what was apparently Greek practice.

Any one who has followed at all the interesting attempts made by
Professor Furtwängler and others to group together, by attention to the
measurements of the different parts of the figure, works belonging to
the different masters, schools, and centres, will have perceived that he
is led to assume a traditional canon of proportion from which a master
deviates slightly in the direction of some bias of his own mind towards
closer knit or more slim figures; such variations being in the earlier
stages very slight. Again, it is supposed that from the canon followed
by a master, different pupils may branch off in opposite directions
according to the leanings of their personal sentiment for beauty. The
conception of these ramifications has at least created the hope that
critics may follow them through a great number of complications, since
a master may modify his canon--after certain pupils have already struck
out for themselves, and new pupils may start from his modified canon;
and so on into an infinite criss-cross of branches, as any sculptor may
be influenced to modify his canon by his fellows or by the masters of
other schools whose work he comes across later. In any case, this main
fact arises, that the canon appears as what the artist deviated from,
not what he abided by: and any one who has any feeling for the infinite
nicety of the results obtained by Greek sculptors will easily apprehend
that each masterpiece established a new and slightly different canon,
and was then in the position to be in its turn again deviated from, as
Flaubert says:

"The conception of every work of art carries within it its own rule and
method, which must be found out before it can be achieved."

"Chayue ceuvre à faire a sa poëtique en soi, qu'il faut trouver."


The same thing is asserted by literary critics to have been the cause of
the repetition of subjects in Greek tragedy, and to have resulted in the
infinite niceties of their forms, which are never the same and never
radically new.

The terrible old mythic story on which the drama was founded stood,
before he entered the theatre, traced in its bare outlines upon the
spectator's mind; it stood in his memory as a group of statuary, faintly
seen, at the end of a long dark vista. Then came the poet, embodying
outlines, developing situations, not a word wasted, not a sentiment
capriciously thrown in. Stroke upon stroke, the drama proceeded; the
light deepened upon the group; more and more it revealed itself to the
riveted gaze of the spectator; until at last, when the final words were
spoken, it stood before him in broad sunlight, a model of
immortal beauty.

This passage from Matthew Arnold's deservedly famous preface well
emphasises one advantage that a tradition of subject and treatment gave
to the Greek poet as to the Greek sculptor: the economy of means it made
possible, "not a word wasted, not a sentiment capriciously thrown
in,"--since every deviation from, every addition to, the traditional
story and treatment, was immediately appreciated by an audience
thoroughly conversant with that tradition, and often with several
previous masterpieces treating it. By merely leaving out an incident, or
omitting to appeal to a sentiment, a Greek tragedian could flood his
whole work with a new significance. So that the temptation to be
eccentric, the temptation to hit too hard or at random because he was
not sure of exactly where the mind stood that he would impress, did not
exist in anything like the same degree for him as it did for Shakespeare
and Michael Angelo as it does for romantic and origina natures to-day.
The absence of a sufficient body of traditional culture belonging to
every educated person tends always to force the artist to commence by
teaching the alphabet to his public. As Coleridge so justly remarked in
the case of Wordsworth: "He had, like all great artists, to create the
taste by which he was to be relished, to teach the art by which he was
to be seen and judged." All great artists no doubt have to do this, but
the modern artist is in the position of the Israelite who was bidden not
only to make bricks, but to find himself in stubble and straw, as
compared with a Greek who could appeal to traditional conceptions with
certainty. Dr. Verrall is no doubt right when he says:

Every one knows, even if the full significance of the fact is not always
sufficiently estimated, that the tragedians of Athens did not tell their
story at all as the telling of a story is conceived by a modern
dramatist, whose audience, when the curtain goes up, know nothing which
is not in the play-bill.

This ignorant public, this uncultivated and unmanured field with which
every modern artist has to commence, is the greatest let to the creator.
What wonder that he should so often prefer to make a gaudy show with
yellow weeds, when he perceives that there is hardly time in one man's
life to produce a respectable crop of wheat from such a wilderness?

"The story of an Athenian tragedy is never completely told; it is
implied, or, to repeat the expression used above, it is illustrated by a
selected scene or scenes. And the further we go back the truer this is,"
continues Dr. Verrall; and the same was doubtless true of sculpture and
painting. It is impossible to over-estimate the importance or advantage
of this fact to the artist. For religious art, for art that appeals to
the sum and total of a man's experience of beauty in life, a public
cultivated in this sense is a necessity. Giotto and Fra Angelico enjoyed
this almost to the same degree as Æschylus or Phidias; Michael Angelo
and the great artists of the Renascence generally enjoyed it in a very
great degree, and reaped an advantage comparable to that which Euripides
and his contemporaries and immediate successors enjoyed. The tradition
enabled such an artist to impress by means of subtleties, niceties, and
refinements, instead of forcing him to attempt always to more or less
seduce, astonish or overawe; strong measures which grow almost
necessarily into bad habits, and end by perverting the taste they
created. This, it has often been remarked, was the case even with
Michael Angelo, even with Shakespeare. Yet nowadays, to enable a man to
remark this, exceptional culture is required.


This idea of the use of a canon may be illustrated in many ways; for,
like all notions which resume actual experiences, it will be found
applicable in many spheres. Thus, on the subject of verse, the eternal
quarrel between the poet and the pedant is, that for the first the rules
of prosody and rhyme are only useful in so far as they make the licenses
he takes appreciable at their just value; while for the pedant such
licenses ever anew seem to imply ignorance of the rule or incapacity to
follow it,--an absurd mistake, since the power to create and impress has
little to do with the means employed; and if a man builds up for himself
a barrier of foregone conclusions about the exact manner in which alone
he will allow himself to be deeply impressed, it is very certain he will
have few save painful impressions. Or take another illustration--an
artist the other day told me that he had noticed that one could almost
always trace a faintly ruled vertical line on the paper which the
greatest of all modern draughtsmen used. Ingres, then, with all his
freedom, vivacity, and accuracy of control over the point he employed to
draw with, still found it useful to have a straight line ruled on his
paper as a student does, and may often even have resorted to the
plumb-line. It enabled his eye to test the subtlest deviations in the
other lines with which he was creating the balance, swing or stability
of a figure. Rules of art are, like this straight line, dead and
powerless in themselves: they help both creator and lover to follow and
appreciate the infinite freedom and subtlety of the living work. The
same thing might be illustrated with regard to manners; a fine standard
of social address and receptivity must be established before the
varieties and subtleties of those whose genius creates beautiful
relations can be appreciated at their full value in their full variety.
This dead law must be buried in everybody's mind and heart before they
can rise to that conscious freedom which is opposite to the freedom of
the wild animals, who never know why they do, nor appreciate how it is
done; neither are they able to rejoice in the address of others; much
less can they relish the infinite refinements of exhilarating
apprehension, which make of laughter, tears, speech, silence, nearness
and distance, a music which holds the enraptured soul in ecstasy; which
created and constantly renews the hope of Heaven. And what blacker
minister of a more sterile hell than the social pedant who only knows
the rule, and mistakes grace and delicacy, frankness and generosity, for
more or less grave infractions of it? But the happy critic, free from
any personal knowledge of what creation means, or what aids are likely
to forward it, is for ever in such a hurry to correct great creators
like Leonardo, Dürer, or Hokusai, that he fails to understand them; and
when he has caught them saying, "This is how anger or despair is
expressed," calmly smiles in his superiority and says,

"He had a scientific law for putting a battle on to canvas, one
condition of which was that 'there must not be a level spot which is
not trampled with gore.' But Leonardo did no harm; his canon was based
on literary rather than artistic interests."

Analogies with scientific laws have served art and art criticism a very
bad turn of late years. Nothing can be more useful to an artist than
knowledge of how the emotions are expressed by the contortion of the
features; but nobody in his senses could ever imagine that a rule for
the expression of anger was rigid throughout and must never be departed
from; every one approaching such a rule with a view to practice instead
of criticism must immediately perceive that its only use is to be
departed from in various degrees. Leonardo's advice for the painting of
a battle-piece is excellent if it is understood in the sense in which it
was meant,--"everything is what it is and not another thing," as Bishop
Butler put it. Be sure and make your battle a battle indeed. It is time
we should realise that what the great artists wrote about art is likely
to be as sensible as are the works they created. How absurd it is for
some one who can neither carve nor paint, much less create, to imagine
he easily grasps the rules of art better than a great master! To such
people let us repeat again and again Hamlet's impatient: "Oh, mend it


Now it will easily be seen that the causes which shape an art tradition
may often be independent of, and foreign to, the will that creates
beautiful objects. Religious superstition or formalism may often hem the
artist in, and hamper his will in every direction; though it is not
wholly accidental that the Greeks had a religion the spirit of which
tended always to defeat the conservatism and bigotry of its priests. So
that their formalism, instead of frustrating or warping the growth of
their art tradition, merely served as a check that may well seem to have
been exactly proportioned to its need; preventing the weakness or
rankness of over rapid growth such as detracts from the art of the
Renascence, and at the same time causing no vital injury. The spirit of
the race deserved and created and was again in turn recreated by
its religion.

Since it is generally recognised that too much freedom is not good for
growing life, I think that almost everybody must at this stage have
become aware of how immensely stupid the academical idea of a canon
appears besides this idea. How suitable both to life and the desire for
perfection the Greek practice was! How theologically dense the
unprogressive inflexibility of the academical practitioner! And now let
us hear Dürer.

But first I will quote from Sir Martin Conway the explanation of what
Dürer means by the phrase, "Words of Difference."

These are what he calls the "Words of Difference": large, long, small,
stout, broad, thick, narrow, thin, young, old, fat, lean, pretty, ugly,
hard, soft, and so forth; in fact any word descriptive of a quality
"whereby a thing may be differentiated from the thing (normal figure)
first made."

Or, as Dürer says in another place, "difference such as maketh a thing
fair or foul."

But further, it lieth in each man's choice whether or how far he shall
make use of all the above written "Words of Difference." For a man may
choose whether he will learn to labour with art, wherein is the truth,
or without art in a freedom by which everything he doth is corrupted,
and his toil becometh a scorn to look upon to such as understand.

Wherefore it is needful for every one that he use discreetness in such
of his works as shall come to the light Whence it ariseth that he who
would make anything aright must in no wise abate aught (that is
essential) from Nature, neither must he lay what is intolerable upon
her. Howbeit some will (by going to an opposite extreme) make
alterations (from Nature) so slight that they can scarce be perceived.
Such are of no account if they cannot be perceived; to alter over much
also answereth not. A right mean (in such alterations) is best. But in
this book I have departed from this right mean in order that it might be
so much the better traced in small things. Let not him who wishes to
proceed to some great thing imitate this my swiftness, but let him set
more slowly (gradually) about his work, that it be not brutish but
artistic to look upon. For figures which differ from the mean are not
good to look upon _when_ they are wrongly and unmasterly employed.

It is not to be wondered at that a skilful master beholdeth manifold
differences of figure, all of which he might make if he had time enough,
but which, for lack of time, he is forced to pass by. For such chances
come very often to artists, and their imaginations also are full of
figures which it were possible for them to make. Wherefore, if to live
many hundred years were granted unto a man who had skill in the use of
such art and were thereto accustomed, he would (through the power which
God hath granted unto men) have wherewith daily to mould and make many
new figures of men and other creatures, which none had before seen nor
imagined. God, therefore, in such and other ways granteth great power
unto artistic men.

Although there be such talking of differences, still it is well known
that all things that a man doth differ of their own nature one from
another. Consequently, there liveth no artist so sure of hand as to be
able to make two things exactly alike the one to the other, so that they
may not be distinguished. For of all our works none is quite and
altogether like another, and this we can in no wise avoid.

We see that if we take two prints from an engraved copper-plate, or cast
two images in a mould, very many points may immediately be found whereby
they may be distinguished one from another. If, then, it cometh thus to
pass in things made by processes the least liable to error, much more
will it happen in other things which are made by the free hand.

This, however, is _not the kind of Difference_ whereof I here treat; for
I am speaking of a difference (from the mean) which a man specially
intendeth, and which standeth in his will, of which I have spoken once
and again....

This is not the aforesaid Difference which we cannot sever from our
work, but, such a difference as maketh a thing fair or foul, and which
may be set forth by the "Word of Difference" dealt with above in this
Book. If a man produce "different" figures of this kind in his work, it
will be judged in every man's mind according to his own opinion, and
these judgments seldom agree one with another.... Yet let every man
beware that he make nothing impossible and inadmissible in Nature,
unless indeed he would make some fantasy, in which it is allowed to
mingle creatures of all kinds together....

Any one who leads this carefully cannot fail to see that it is not only
that Dürer is not "desirous of laying down rules applicable to all
cases," or even of "proposing a definite canon for the relative
proportions of the human body," as Thausing indeed points out (p. 305,
v. 11): but that he does not conceive the proportions he gives as even
approximately capable of these functions; and considers it indeed the
very nature and special use of a canon of proportions to be wilfully
deviated from, pointing out that, though the deviations of which he is
speaking are slight and subtle, they are not to be confused with the
accidental ones that can but appear even in work done by mechanical
processes. Rather they are such variation as a man "specially intendeth,
and which standeth in his will;" and again, "such a difference as maketh
a thing fair or foul;" for the use of these normal proportions is that
they may enable an artist to deviate from the normal without the
proportions he chooses having the air of monstrosities or mistakes or
negligences. He does not insist that either of the scales he gives is
the best that could be, even for this purpose, but that they are
sufficiently good to be used; and he would have marvelled at the wonder
that has been caused in innocent critical minds that in his own work he
adhered to them so little. He never intended them to be adhered to.


It may be objected that Dürer certainly sometimes thought of a Canon of
Proportion as a perfect rule, because he wrote on a MS. page as

Vitruvius, the ancient architect, whom the Romans employed upon great
buildings, says that whosoever desires to build should study the
perfection of the human figure, for in it are discovered the most secret
mysteries of proportion. So, before I say anything about architecture, I
will state how a well-formed man should be made, and then about a woman,
a child and a horse. Any object may be proportioned out (_literally_,
measured) in a similar way. Therefore, hear first of all what Vitruvius
says about the human figure, which he learnt from the greatest masters,
painters and founders, who were highly famed. They said that the human
figure is as follows.

That the face from the chin upward to where the hair begins is the
tenth part of a man, and that an out-stretched hand is the same
length, &c.

[Illustration: "This is my appearance in the eighteenth year of my age"
Charcoal-drawing in the Academy, Vienna _Face p._288]

And again in another place, as Sir Martin Conway points out, he gives a
religious basis to this notion,[85] "the Creator fashioned men once for
all as they must be, and I hold that the perfection of form and beauty
is contained in the sum of all men." In an obvious sense these passages
certainly run counter to those which I have quoted (pp. 285-207): but I
would like to point out that these are dogmatic assertions about
something that if it were true could never be proved by experience (see
also pp. 64, 254), those former are Dürer's advice with a view to
practice. Men frequently carry about a considerable amount of dogmatic
opinion, which has so little connection with actual experience that it
is never brought to the test without being noticeably incommoded by it.
Yet it is not absolutely necessary to consider Dürer as inconsistent in
regard to this matter, even to this degree.

The beauty of form which he held had been Adam's, and which was now
parcelled out among his vast progeny in various amounts as a consequence
of his fall--this beauty of form doubtless Dürer considered it part of
an artist's business to recollect and reveal in his work. This beauty is
an ideal, and his canon (or rather canons) were intended as means to
help the artist to approach towards the realisation of that ideal. It is
obvious also that a man occupied in comparing the proportions of those
whom he considers to be exceptionally beautiful will develop and feed
his power of imagining beautifully proportioned figures. It would be
futile to deny that this is very much what took place in the evolution
of Greek statues, or that such works are perhaps of all others the most
central and satisfying to the human spirit. The sentences that precede
that quoted by Sir Martin are Greek in tendency.

A good figure cannot be made without industry and care; it should
therefore be well considered before it is begun, so that it be correctly
made. For the lines of its form cannot be traced by compass or rule, but
must be drawn by the hand from point to point, so that it is easy to go
wrong in them. And for such figures great attention should be paid to
human proportions, and all their kinds should be investigated. _I hold
that the more nearly and accurately a figure is made to resemble a man,
so much the better the work will be._ If the best parts chosen from many
well-formed men are united in one figure, it will be worthy of praise.
But some are of another opinion, and discuss how men ought to be made. I
will not argue with them about that. I hold Nature for Master in such
matters, and the fancy of men for delusion.

And then follows the passage quoted by Sir Martin Conway (see p. 289).
It is obvious that, joined with the two preceding sentences, this
passage can in no way be made to serve the academical practitioner, as
it seems to when taken alone. In the same way, the sentence printed in
italics in the above quotation, if isolated, would certainly seem to
serve the scientific practitioners and their slavish realism, though in
connection with those that follow this is no longer possible. Dürer
regards nature as providing raw material for a creation which may not
tally exactly with any individual natural object. This was the Greek
artists' idea of the serviceableness of nature, as revealed both by
their practice and by such traditions as that concerning Zeuxis and his
five beautiful models for the figure of Venus. But Dürer does not
confine the use of his canons even to this aim, but clearly perceived
their utility in regard to quite other aims, as is shown by the passage
beginning, "It is not to be wondered at," &c. (see p. 286), in which the
imagination of figures not merely intended to embody beautiful or newly
assorted proportions is clearly considered; and if we review Dürer's
actual work we shall see how much oftener he created figures for
picturesque or dramatic effect than he did to embody beautiful
proportions in them, though he evidently also considered the last
purpose as of the first importance, as we see when he goes on to say:

Let any one who thinks I alter the human form too much or too little
take care to avoid my error and follow nature. There are many different
kinds of men in various lands: whoso travels far will find this to be
so, and see it before his eyes. We are considering about the most
beautiful human figure conceivable, but (only) the Maker of the world
knows how that should be. Even if we succeed well we do but approach
towards it from afar. For we ourselves have differences of perception,
and the vulgar who follow only their own taste usually err. Therefore I
do not advise any one to follow me, for I only do what I can, and that
is not enough even to satisfy myself.

The extreme complexity of Dürer's ideas and their application was a
natural result of their having been born of his experience. For
excellence is extremely various, and widely scattered through the world.
The simplicity of a true work of art results merely from some excellence
having been singled out from all foreign circumstances, and presented as
vividly as it was intensely apprehended. This excellence may be one of
proportion or one of many other kinds. Now, a figure conceived by an
artist, whether he value it for its choicely assorted proportions or for
picturesque or dramatic effect, may need to be developed before it is
serviceable in an elaborate work of art.

Artists who work rapidly, and, whose pictures are dominated by passing
moods, have always been in the habit of taking great licences with
proportion, and, indeed, with all matters of fact. Dürer's aim is to
endow the artist who elaborates his work slowly with a similar freedom.
This energy and power in rapid work it is the ever-renewed despair of
artists to feel themselves losing in the process of elaboration. And one
of the reasons for this is that in larger or more elaborate work, the
statement, being more ample, is expected to be also more comprehensive
and exhaustive; for the time required begets after-thoughts as to the
real nature of the object viewed apart from the mood, which is the only
excuse for the work; and so some of the artist's attention is drawn away
to facts and aspects which it would have been the success of his work to
have ignored. Dürer's object was to help a man to carry out his
essential intention, and that alone, in a carefully elaborated picture;
the problems faced were precisely similar to those so successfully coped
with in Greek statues. In the first place, he would have pointed out
that all sketches will not bear elaboration if their merit depends on
extreme licence, for instance. Next, that a man who had a standard of
proportion could see wherein the deviations of his sketched figure were
essential to the effect he wished it to produce, and wherein they were
unessential. Then, if he drew the normal figure large, he would be able
to deviate from it in exactly the right places and to the right degree
to reproduce the desired effect. But to do this he must also have a
general notion of how deviations from a normal proportion could be made
consistent throughout all the measurements involved not that he would in
every case want to make them consistent. Now, there is a class of
artists for whom all these suggestions of Dürer's must for ever remain
useless, for all science of production is impossible for those whose
only success lies in improvisation; such improvisations, however
dazzling or however delightful they may be, are, nevertheless, the class
of art-works furthest removed in spirit and in method from Greek
statuary. I do not say that they need be inferior; I say that they are
opposite in method. And, had circumstances permitted, or Dürer's dowry
of great gifts been more complete than it was, and enabled him to become
as great a creator of pictures as he is a great draughtsman and
portrait-painter, no doubt his pictures would have resembled Greek
statues both in their effect and their method, however different they
might have been in subject and in range. To talk about "beauty" being
sacrificed to "truth," with Prof. Thausing; or the ideal of the North
being "strength" in works of art as in life, with Sir Martin Conway;--is
to confuse the issue and deceive oneself. To have mistaken the proper
end of art, beauty, by thinking it was "truth" or "strength," is to have
failed to labour in the right direction; that is all-who-ever may
condone the failure.


Again, Sir Martin Conway tells us:

The laws of perspective can be deduced with certainty from mathematical
first principles, the canon of proportions' could only be constructed
empirically as the result of repeated observations. Nevertheless, once
constructed, it can certainly be used as Dürer suggested. Its use has
practically been superseded by the study of anatomy.

This last phrase shows us in a flash how far the writer when he wrote it
was from apprehending Dürer's meaning. How could the study of anatomy
ever do for an artist what Dürer was trying to do? No doubt Sir Martin
had Michael Angelo in his mind's eye; and it is true that he studied
anatomy, and that his influence has been, on the whole, paramount with
artists attempting subjects of this kind ever since. Whether Michael
Angelo studied proportion or not, his practice exemplifies Dürer's
meaning splendidly. No anatomical research could have led him to
construct figures nine to twelve, or even fifteen to twenty, heads
high--to do which, as his work developed, more and more became his
practice, especially in designs and sketches for compositions. To arrive
at such proportions he followed his imaginative instinct. He found that
these monstrous deviations from the normal (which, of course, in a
general sense he recognised, whether he gave any study to rendering it
precise or not) produced the effect on his mind that he wished to
produce on the minds of others--an effect that was emotional and
peculiar to his habitual moods. We know that his constitution gave him
the staying-power, while his fiery Titanic spirit gave him the energy,
to carry out and perfect his mighty frescoes and statues at the same
heat that the creative hour yields other men for the production of a
sketch alone. This giant son of Time was able to live for days and weeks
together in a state of mind two or three consecutive hours of which
exhaust the average master even. Considering the rapidity and intensity
of his mental process, it is a miracle that, in so many works and to so
great a degree, he respected the too much and too little of human
reason, and allowed himself to be governed by what the Greeks called a
sense of measure, instead of yielding to his native impetuosity and
becoming an a-thousand-fold-greater-Blake; and illustrating, to the
delight of active and short-winded intelligences, and the stupefaction
of slow and dull ones, the futility of eccentricity and the frivolity of
passion when unseconded by constancy of character and labour. For
futile, in the arts, is whatever the sense of beauty must condemn,
however well-intentioned; and frivolous is the passion that forgets the
end it would attain, and becomes merely a private rhapsody, however
astonishing its developments; slowly but surely it will be seen that
such fireworks do not vitally concern us. The proportions of many of
Michael Angelo's figures are as far removed from any possible normal
standard as what Dürer calls "this my swiftness," in the abnormally tall
and stout figures among the diagrams illustrating his book.

And this is where Dürer's idea comes nearer to Greek practice. For by
letting the striking rather than the subtle govern his departures from
the mean, Michael Angelo found himself always bound to go beyond
himself; as the palate which once has entertained strong stimulants
demands that the dose be continually strengthened. Now this is in entire
conformity with the impatience which was perhaps his greatest weakness;
just as Dürer's too methodical approach is in conformity with that
acquiescence in the insufficiency of his conditions which made him in
his weak moments swear never again to undertake those better classes of
work which were less adequately paid, or made him content to display
mere manual dexterity rather than do nothing on his days of darkness,
suffering and depression: we may add, which made him choose to live at
Nuremberg and refuse a better income and more suitable surroundings
at Venice.

It is obviously the more hopeful way to create a beautiful figure first
and discover a mathematical way of reproducing its most essential
proportions afterwards; and no doubt this is what Dürer intended should
be done; and in consequence he felt a need, and sought to supply it, for
mechanical means to simplify, shorten and render more sure that part of
the process which must necessarily partake something of the nature of
drudgery, if great finish is to be combined with splendid design. The
romantic, impulsive _improvisatore_ does not feel this need, considers
it bound to defeat its own aim; and, given his own gifts, he is right.
But none the less, there are the Greek statues elaborated with a
thoroughness which, if it ever dims or veils the creative intention,
does so in a degree so slight as to seem amply compensated by the sense
of ease maintained in spite of the innumerable difficulties overcome;
there are besides a score or more of Dürer's copper engravings with
their imperturbable adequacy of minute painstaking, never for a moment
sleepy or mechanical or lifeless. The one aim need not excommunicate the
other even in the same individual; far less need this be so in different
artists, with diverse temperaments, diverse aptitudes.


The application of this idea does not end with the simple proportions of
measurement between the limbs and parts of the figure; it is also
concerned with what is called the modelling, and the treatment of
surfaces such as the draperies, the hair, the fleshy portions and those
beneath which the bony structure comes to prominence; in painting it may
be applied to the chiaroscuro and colour. Reynolds' remarks on the
Venetians in his Eighth Discourse well illustrate this fact. He says:

It ought, in my opinion, to be indispensably observed that the masses of
light in a picture be always of a warm mellow colour, yellow, red, or a
yellowish-white; and that the blue, the grey, or the green colours be
kept _almost_ entirely out of these masses, and be used only to support
and set off these warm colours; and, for this purpose, a small
_proportion_ of cold colours will be sufficient.

If this conduct be reversed, let the light be cold, and the surrounding
colours warm, as we often see in the works of the Roman and Florentine
painters; and it will be out of the power of art, even in the hands of
Rubens or Titian, to make a picture splendid or harmonious.[86]

Here we see a great colourist attempting to establish a canon for
colour. Had he lived at an earlier period, before expression had become
generally a subject of criticism, he would have described his discovery
in less guarded and elastic language, such as is now applied to
scientific laws. And then he might have been as excusably misunderstood
as Leonardo and Dürer have been; as it is, the misunderstanding dealt
out to him is quite without excuse.

Rembrandt, not only exemplifies the impressiveness of great deviations
in structural proportions in much the same degree as Michael Angelo,
using what the Greeks and Dürer would doubtless have considered a
dangerous liberty, however much they might have felt bound to admire the
results obtained; not only does he do this when, for instance, he
represents Jesus now as a giant, now as almost a dwarf, according to the
imaginative impression which he chooses to create; but he follows a
similar process in his black and white pattern. For among his works
there are etchings, which, though often supposed to have been left
unfinished, are discerned by those with a sense for beauties of this
class to be marvellously complete, stimulating, and satisfying, and in
the nicest harmony with the other impressions produced by the mental
point of view from which the subject is viewed, as also by the main
lines and proportions of the composition, and to yield the visual
delight most suitable to the occasion. Dürer and the Greeks are at one
with Michael Angelo and Rembrandt in condemning by their practice all
purely mechanical application of ideas or methods to the production of
works of creative art, such as is exemplified by artists of more limited
aims and powers; by academical practitioners, by theoretical scientists
calling themselves impressionists, luminarists, naturalists, or any
other name. For artists whose temperaments are impeded by some unhappy
slowness, or difficulty in concentrating themselves, methods of
procedure similar to those elaborated by Dürer in his books on
proportion, properly understood, must be a real aid and benefit; as
those who are essentially improvisors may help themselves and supply
their deficiencies by methods similar to those which Reynolds describes
as practised by Gainsborough.

"He even framed a kind of model of landscapes on his table, composed of
broken stones, dried herbs and pieces of broken glass, which he
magnified and improved into rocks, trees and water" (Fourteenth

This process resembles that of tracing faces or scenes from the life of
gnomes in glowing caverns among coals of fire on a winter's eve; it is
resorted to in one form or another by all creative artists, but it is
peculiarly useful to men like Gainsborough, whose art tends always to
become an improvisation, whatever strenuous discipline they may have
subjected themselves to in their days of ardent youth.


Perhaps Dürer's actual standards for the normal, his actual methods for
creating self-consistent variations from it, are not likely to prove of
much use, even when artists shall be sufficiently educated to understand
them; nevertheless, the principle which informs them has been latent in
the work of all great creators; is marvellously fulfilled indeed, in
Greek statuary. The work of Antoine Louis Barye, that great and
little-understood master--as far as I am able to judge, the only modern
artist who has made science serve him instead of being seduced by
her--exemplifies this central idea of Dürer's almost as fully as the
Greek masterpieces. The future of art appears to me to lie in the hands
of those artists who shall be able to grapple with the new means offered
them by the advance of science, as he did, and be as little or even less
seduced than he was by the foolish idea that art can become science
without ceasing to be art, which has handicapped and defeated the
efforts of so many industrious and talented men of late years. So truly
is this the case that the improvisor appears to many as the only true
artist, and his uncontrolled caprices as the farthest reach of human
constructive power.

In any case, no artist is unhappy if a docile and hopeful disposition
enables him to see in the masterpieces of Greek sculpture the reward of
an easy balance of both temperaments and methods, the improvisor's and
the elaborator's, under felicitous circumstances, by men better endowed
than himself. And this though never history and archaeology shall be in
a position to give him information sufficient to determine that his
faith is wholly warranted.

  A golden age is a golden dream, that sheds
  A golden light on waking hours, on toil,
  On leisure, and on finished works.


[Footnote 85: "Literary Remains of Albrecht Dürer," p. 166.]

[Footnote 86: See also III Discourse where he defends Dürer against




I now intend to re-arrange what seem the most interesting of the
sentences on the theory of art which are found in Dürer's MSS. and books
on proportion. He did not give them the final form or order which he
intended, and it seems to me that to arrange the more important
according to the subjects they treat of will be the simplest way of
arriving at general conceptions as to their tendency and value. We shall
thus bring together repetitions of the same thought and contradictory
answers to the same question; and after each series of sentences, I
myself shall discuss the points raised, illustrating my remarks from
modern writers whose opinion in these matters seems to me deserving of
most attention. I have heard it said by the late Mr. Arthur Strong that
Dürer's art is always didactic; and Dürer as a writer on art certainly
has ever before his mind this one object, to teach others, or, as I
should prefer to phrase it, to help others to learn. For he himself is
continually confessing that he cannot yet answer his own questions, and
it seems to me that the best teacher is always he who most desires to
increase his knowledge, not indeed to hoard it as some do and make of
it a personal possession; intellectual misers, for ever gnashing their
teeth over the reputations or the pretensions of others. No, but one who
desires knowledge for its own sake and welcomes it in others with as
much satisfaction as he gains it for himself. Docility, i.e.,
teachableness, let me point out once more, seems to be the necessary
midwife of genius, without the aid of which it often labours in vain, or
brings forth strange incongruous and misshapen births.

Sad is the condition of a brilliant and fiery spirit shut up in a man's
brain without the humble assistance of this lively, meek and patient
virtue! What unrelieved and insupportable throes of agony must be borne
by such a spirit, and how often does such labour end in misanthropy or
madness! The records of the lives of exceptionally-gifted men tell us
only too clearly what pains those are, and how frequently they have been
borne. So I fancy I cannot do better than choose out for my first
section sentences which praise or advocate the effort to learn, or
attempt to enlighten those who make such an effort on the choice of
teachers and disciplines.


I shall not hesitate to transpose sentences even when they appear in
connected passages, in order, as I hope, to bring out more clearly their
connection. For Dürer was not a writer by profession, and his thoughts
were often more abundant than he knew how to deal with.

Before starting, however, I must prefix to my quotations some account of
the four MS. books in the British Museum from which they are principally
taken. Rough drafts in Pirkheimer's handwriting were found among them,
but of Dürer's work Sir Martin Conway tells us:

The volumes contain upwards of seven hundred leaves and scraps of paper
of various kinds, covered at different dates with more or less elaborate
outline drawings, and more or less corrected drafts for works published
or planned by Dürer. Interspersed among them are geometrical and
other sketches.

He was in the habit of correcting and re-copying, again and again, what
he had written. Sometimes he would jot down a sentence alongside of
matter to which it had no relation. This sentence he would afterwards
introduce in its right connection. There are in these volumes no less
than four drafts of the beginning of a Dedication to Pirkheimer of the
Books of Human Proportions. Two other drafts of this same dedication are
among the Dresden MSS. The opening sentences of the Introduction to the
same work were likewise, as will be seen, the subject of
frequent revision.

These drafts, notes and sketches date from 1508 to 1523. Some collector
had had them cut out, gummed together, and bound without the slightest
regard to order, or even to the sequence of consecutive passages. In
January 1890 the volumes were taken to pieces and rearranged by Miss
Lina Eckenstein, who had previously made the admirable translations of
them for Sir Martin Conway's "Literary Remains of Albrecht Dürer," from
which my quotations are taken.

The contents of the volumes as rearranged may be roughly described as

Volume 1. Drawings of whole figures and portions of the body,
illustrating Dürer's theories of Proportion. Drawings of a solid
octogon. Six coloured drawings of crystals. The description of the
Ionic order of architecture. Drawings of columns with measurements. A
scale for Human Proportions. A table of contents for a work on Geometry.
Notes on perspective, curves, folds, &c. The different kinds of temple
after Vitruvius. Mathematical diagrams, &c.

Volume II. Draft of a dedicatory letter to King Ferdinand (see page
180). Drafts and drawings for "The Art of Fortification." Drawing of a
shield with a rearing horse. Mantles of Netherlandish women and nuns. A
Latin inscription for his own portrait. Notes on "Proportion," and on
the feast of the Rosenkranz. Scale for Human Proportions. An alphabet.
Draft of a dedication for the books on Proportion. Sketch of a skeleton.
Studies of architecture. Venetian houses and roofs. Sketches of a
church, a house, a tower, a drapery, &c.

Volume III. Drafts of a projected work on Painting and on the study of
Proportion. Drafts for the dedication, the preface, and for a work on
Esthetics. Drawings of a male body, a female body, and a piece of
drapery. Notes and drawings for the proportions of heads, hands, feet,
outline curves, a child, a woman, &c.

Volume IV. Proportions of a man, a fat woman, the head of the average
woman, the young woman, &c. Short Profession of Faith (see page 130).
Scale for Human Proportions, &c. Fragments of the Preface of Essay on
Aesthetics, &c. Grimacing and distorted faces. Use of measurements. On
the characters of faces, thick, thin, broad, narrow, &c. Sketches of a
dragon and of an angel for Maximilian's Triumphal Procession. List of
Luther's works (see page 130). Drawings of human bodies proportioned
to squares.

[Illustration: "UNA VILANA WENDISCH" Pen drawing with wash background
in the collection of Mrs. Seymour _face_ p. 304]

See the description in "Dürer's Schriftlicher Nachlass" (Lange und
Fuhse), page 263, from which the above abstract is made.

Sir Martin Conway continues:

In these volumes Dürer is seen, sometimes writing under the influence of
impetuous impulse, sometimes with leisurely care, allowing his pen to
embroider the script with graceful marginal flourishes.

At what period of his career Dürer first conceived the idea of writing a
comprehensive work upon the theory and practice of art is unknown. It
was certainly before the year 1512. The following list of chapters may
perhaps be an early sketch of the plan.

Ten things are contained in the little book.
The first, the proportions of a young child.
The second, proportions of a grown man.
The third, proportions of a woman.
The fourth, proportions of a horse.
The fifth, something about architecture.
The sixth, about an apparatus through which it can be
  shown that 'all things may be traced.
The seventh, about light and shade.
The eighth, about colours, how to paint like nature.
The ninth, about the ordering (composition) of the
The tenth, about free painting, which alone is made by
  Imagination without any other help.


Glad enough should we be to attain unto great knowledge without toil,
for nature has implanted in us the desire of knowing all things,
thereby to discern a truth of all things. But our dull wit cannot come
unto such perfectness of all art, truth, and wisdom. Yet are we not,
therefore, shut out altogether from all arts. If we want to sharpen our
reason by learning and to practise ourselves therein, having once found
the right path we may, step by step, seek, learn, comprehend, and
finally reach and attain unto something true. Wherefore, he that
understandeth how to learn somewhat in his leisure time, whereby he may
most certainly be enabled to honour God, and to do what is useful both
for himself and others, that man doeth well; and we know that in this
wise he will gain much experience in art and will be able to make known
its truth for our good. It is right, therefore, for one man to teach
another. He that joyfully doeth so, upon him shall much be bestowed by
God, from whom we receive all things. He hath highest praise.

One finds some who know nothing and learn nothing. They despise
learning, and say that much evil cometh of the arts, and that some are
wholly vile. I, on the contrary, hold that no art is evil, but that all
are good. A sword is a sword which may be used either for murder or for
justice. Similarly the arts are in themselves good. What God hath
formed, that is good, misuse it how ye will.

Thou findest arts of all kinds; choose then for thyself that which is
like to be of greatest service to thee. Learn it; let not the difficulty
thereof vex thee till thou hast accomplished somewhat wherewith thou
mayest be satisfied.

It is very necessary for a man to know some one thing by reason of the
usefulness which ariseth therefrom. Wherefore we should all gladly
learn, for the more we know so much the more do we resemble the likeness
of God, who verily knoweth all things.

The more, therefore, a man learneth, so much the better doth he become,
and so much the more love doth he win for the arts and for things
exalted. Wherefore a man ought not to play the wanton, but should learn
in season.

Is the artistic man pious and by nature good? He escheweth the evil and
chooseth the good; and hereunto serve the arts, for they give the
discernment of good and evil.

Some may learn somewhat of all arts, but that is not given to every man.
Nevertheless, there is no rational man so dull but that he may learn the
one thing towards which his fancy draweth him most strongly. Hence no
man is excused from learning something.

Let no man put too much confidence in himself, for many (pairs of eyes)
see better than one. Though it is possible for a man to comprehend more
than a thousand (men), still that cometh but rarely to pass.

Many fall into error because they follow their own taste alone;
therefore let each look to it that his inclination blind not his
judgment. For every mother is well pleased with her own child, and thus
also it ariseth that many painters paint figures resembling themselves.

He that worketh in ignorance worketh more painfully than he that worketh
with understanding; therefore let all learn to understand aright.

Now I know that in our German nation, at the present time, are many
painters who stand in need of instruction, for they lack all real art,
yet they nevertheless have many large works to do. Forasmuch then as
they are so numerous, it is very needful for them to learn to better
their work.

Willingly will I impart my teaching, hereafter written, to the man who
knoweth little and would gladly learn; but I will not be cumbered with
the proud, who, according to their own estimate of themselves, know all
things, and are best, and despise all else. From true artists, however,
such as can show their meaning with the hand, I desire to learn humbly
and with much thankfulness.

A thing thou beholdest is easier of belief than that thou hearest, but
whatever is both heard and seen we grasp more firmly and lay hold on
more securely. I will therefore do the work in both ways, that thus I
may be better understood.

Whosoever will, therefore, let him hear and see what I say, do, and
teach, for I hope it may be of service and not for a hindrance to the
better arts, nor lead thee to neglect better things.

I hear moreover of no writer in modern times by whom aught hath been
written and made known which I might read for my improvement. For some
hide their art in great secrecy, and others write about things whereof
they know nothing, so that their words are nowise better than mere
noise, as he that knoweth somewhat is swift to discover. I therefore
will write down with God's help the little that I know. Though many will
scorn it I am not troubled, for I well know that it is easier to cast
blame on a thing than to make anything better. Moreover, I will expound
my meaning as clearly and plainly as I can; and, were it possible, I
would gladly give everything I know to the light, for the good of
cunning students who prize such art more highly than silver or gold. I
further admonish all who have any knowledge in these matters that they
write it down. Do it truly and plainly, not toilsomely and at great
length, for the sake of those who seek and are glad to learn, to the
great honour of God and your own praise. If I then set something burning
and ye all add to it with skilful furthering, a blaze may in time arise
therefrom which shall shine throughout the whole world.

I shall here apply to what is to be called beautiful the same
touchstone as that by which we decide what is right. For as what all the
world prizeth as right we hold to be right, so what all the world
esteemeth beautiful that will we also hold for beautiful, and ourselves
strive to produce the like.

No one need blindly follow this theory of mine as though it were quite
perfect, for human nature has not yet so far degenerated that another
man cannot discover something better. So each may use my teaching as
long as it seems good to him, or until he finds something better. Where
he is not willing to accept it, he may well hold that this doctrine is
not written for him, but for others who are willing.

That must be a strangely dull head which never trusts itself to find out
anything fresh, but only travels along the old path, simply following
others and not daring to reflect for itself. For it beseems each
understanding, in following another, not to despair of itself
discovering something better. If that is done, there remaineth no doubt
but that in time this art will again reach the perfection it attained
amongst the ancients.

Much will hereafter be written about subjects and refinements of
painting. Sure am I that many notable men will arise, all of whom will
write both well and better about this art, and will teach it better than
I; for I myself hold my art at a very mean value, for I know what my
faults are. Let every man therefore strive to better these my errors
according to his powers. 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 upon. 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.

Compare also the passages already quoted,(pp. 15,16,26).


"What an admirable temper!" is the exclamation which expresses our first
feeling on reading the foregoing sentences. It renews the spirit of a
man merely to peruse such things. Scales fall from our eyes, and we see
what we most essentially are, with pleasure, as good children gleefully
recognise their goodness: and at the same time we are filled with
contrition that we should have ever forgotten it. And this that we most
essentially are rational beings, lovers of goodness, children of
hope,--how directly Dürer appeals to it: "Nature has implanted in us the
desire of knowing all things." It reminds one of Ben Jonson's:--

It is a false quarrel against nature, that she helps understanding but
in a few, when the most part of mankind are inclined by her thither, if
they would take the pains; no less than birds to fly, horses to run,
&c., which, if they lose it, is through their own sluggishness, and by
that means they become her prodigies, not her children.

There is something refreshing and inspiriting in the mere conviction of
our teachableness; and when the same author, referring to Plato's
travels in search of knowledge, says, "He laboured, so must we," we do
not find the comparison humiliating either to Plato or ourselves. For
"without a way there is no going," and every man of superior mould says
to us with more or less of benignity, "I am the way: follow me." Such
means or ways of attainment have been followed by all whose success is
known to us, and are followed now by all "finely touched and gifted
men." I might quote in illustration of these assertions the whole of
Reynolds' Sixth Discourse, so marvellous for its acute and delicate
discrimination; but I will content myself with a few leading passages:

We cannot suppose that any one can really mean to exclude all imitation
of others.

It is a common observation that no art was ever invented and carried to
perfection at the same time.

The greatest natural genius cannot subsist on its own stock: he who
resolves never to ransack any mind but his own will soon be reduced to
the poorest of all imitations, he will be obliged to imitate himself,
and to repeat what he has often before repeated.

The truth is, he whose feebleness is such as to make other men's
thoughts an encumbrance to him, can have no very great strength of mind
or genius of his own to be destroyed: so that not much harm will be done
at the worst.

Of course, this last phrase will not apply universally; we must remember
that the man who sets out to become an artist, or claims to be one by
native gift, has made apparent that he is the possessor of no mean
ambition. The humblest may see a way of improvement in their betters,
and obey the command, "Follow me." Every man is not called to follow
great artists, but only those who are peculiarly fitted to tread the
difficult paths that climb Olympus-hill. Yet to all men alike the great
artist in life, he who wedded failure to divinity, says, "Learn of me
that I am meek and lowly of heart, and ye shall find rest to
your souls."

He who confines himself to the imitation of an individual, as he never
proposes to surpass, so he is not likely to equal, the object of his
imitation. He professes only to follow; and he that follows must
necessarily be behind.

It is of course impossible to surpass perfection, but it is possible to
be made one with it.

To find excellences, however dispersed, to discover beauties, however
concealed by the multitude of defects with which they are surrounded,
can be the work only of him who, having a mind always alive to his art,
has extended his views to all ages and to all schools; and has acquired
from that comprehensive mass which he has thus gathered to himself a
well-digested and perfect idea of his art, to which everything is
referred. Like a sovereign judge and arbiter of art, he is possessed of
that presiding power which separates and attracts every excellence from
every school; selects both from what is great and what is little; brings
home knowledge from the east and from the west; making the universe
tributary towards furnishing his mind, and enriching his works with
originality and variety of inventions.

In this tine passage we get back to our central idea in regard to the
sense of proportion "making the universe tributary towards furnishing
his mind"; while in the "discovery of beauties" the complete artist
"selects both from what is great and what is little," from the clouds of
heaven and from the dunghills of the farmyard.

Study, therefore, the great works of the great masters for ever. Study,
as nearly as you can, in the order, in the manner, and on the principles
on which they studied. Study nature attentively, but always with those
masters in your company; consider them as models which you are to
imitate, and at the same time as rivals with whom you are to contend.
For "no man can be an artist, whatever he may suppose, upon any
other terms."

Yes, an artist is a child who chooses his parents, nor is he limited to
only two. Religion tells all men they have a Father, who is God;
philosophy and tradition repeat, "man has a mother, who is Nature."
These sayings are platitudes; their application is so obvious that it is
now generally forgotten. If God is a Father, it is the soul that chooses
Him; if Nature is a mother, it is the man who chooses to regard her as
such, since to the greater number it is well known she seems but a
stepmother, and a cruel one at that. Elective affinities, chosen
kindred!--"tell me what company you keep, and I will tell you who you
are" (what you are worth). How many artist waifs one sees nowadays! lost
souls, who choose to be nobody's children, and think they can teach
themselves all they need to know.

I think the very striking agreement between artists so totally different
in every respect except eminence, docility and anxiety to further art,
as Dürer and Reynolds, ought to impress our minds very deeply: even
though, as is certainly the case, the way they point out has been very
greatly abandoned of late years, and public institutions in this and
other countries proceed to further art on quite other lines; even though
critics are almost unanimous in knowing better both the end and the way
than the great masters who had not the advantage of a dash of science in
their hydromel to make it sparkle, but instead made it yet richer and
thicker by stirring up with it piety and religion. I think this
"cock-tail and sherry-cobbler" art criticism of to-day is very
deleterious to the digestion, and that the piety and enthusiasm which
Dürer and Reynolds worked into their art were more wholesome, and better
supplied the needs and deficiencies of artistic temperaments.




Many centuries ago the great art of painting was held in high honour by
mighty kings, and they made excellent artists rich and held them worthy,
accounting such inventiveness a creating power like God's. For the
imagination of a good painter is full of figures, and were it possible
for him to live for ever, he would always have from his inward ideas,
whereof Plato speaks, something new to set forth by the work of
his hand.

Many hundred years ago there were still some famous painters, such as
those named Phidias, Praxiteles, Apelles, Polycleitus, Parrhasius,
Lysippus, Protogenes, and the rest, some of whom wrote about their art
and very artfully described it and gave it plainly to light: but their
praise-worthy books are, so far, unknown to us, and perhaps have been
altogether lost by war, driving forth of the peoples, and alterations of
laws and beliefs--a loss much to be regretted by every wise man. It
often came to pass that noble "Ingenia" were destroyed by barbarous
oppressors of art; for if they saw figures traced in a few lines they
thought it nought but vain, devilish sorcery. And in destroying them
they attempted to honour God by something displeasing to Him; and to use
the language of men, God was angry with all destroyers of the works of
great mastership, which is only attained by much toil, labour, and
expenditure of time, and is bestowed by God alone. Often do I sorrow
because I must be robbed of the aforesaid masters' books of art; but the
enemies of art despise these things.

Pliny writeth that the old painters and sculptors--such as Apelles,
Protogenes, and the rest--told very artistically in writing how a
well-built man's figure might be measured out. Now it may well have come
to pass that these noble books were misunderstood and destroyed as
idolatrous in the early days of the Church. For they would have said
Jupiter should have such proportions, Apollo such others; Venus shall be
thus, Hercules thus; and so with all the rest. Had it, however, been my
fate to be there at the time, I would have said: "Oh dear, holy lords
and fathers, do not so lamentably destroy the nobly discovered arts,
which have been gotten by great toil and labour, only because of the
abuses made of them. For art is very hard, and we might and would use it
for the great honour and glory of God. For, even as the ancients used
the fairest figure of a man to represent their false god Apollo, we will
employ the same for Christ the Lord, who is fairest of all the earth;
and as they figured Venus as the loveliest of women, so will we in like
manner set down the same beauteous form for the most pure Virgin Mary,
the mother of God; and of Hercules will we make Samson, and thus will we
do with all the rest, for such books shall we get never more."
Wherefore, though that which is lost ariseth not again, yet a man may
strive after new lore; and for these reasons I have been moved to make
known my ideas here following, in order that others may ponder the
matter further, and may thus come to a new and better way and

I certainly do not deny that, if the books of the ancients who wrote
about the art of painting still lay before our eyes, my design might be
open to the false interpretation that I thought to find out something
better than what was known unto them. These books, however, have been
totally lost in the lapse of time; so I cannot be justly blamed for
publishing my opinions and discoveries in writing, for that is exactly
what the ancients did. If other competent men are thereby induced to do
the like, our descendants have something which they may add to and
improve upon, and thus the art of painting may in time advance and reach
its perfection.


Whether we should exercise our intellects or logical sense alone upon
the records and remains of past ages, or whether they may not be better
employed for the exercise and edification of the imaginative faculties,
would seem to be a question which, though they did not perhaps in set
terms put to themselves, modern historians have very summarily answered;
and I think answered wrongly. The records of the past, the records even
of yesterday, are necessarily extremely incomplete; to make them at all
significant something must be added by the historian. The 'perception'
of probability is never exact; it varies with the mind between man and
man; in the same man even before and after different experiences, &c.
But even if the perception of the highest probability were practically
exact, it would never suffice; for, as Aristotle says, "it is probable
that many things should happen contrary to probability." From these
facts it follows that the man who has the most exhaustive knowledge of
what has actually survived, and what has been recorded, will not
necessarily form the truest judgment on a question of history; it might
always happen that the intuition of some unscholarly person was nearer
the truth; still no man could ever decide between the two, nor would any
sane man think it worth his while to take sides with either of them;
such questions are most useful when they are left open. This is the case
because the imagination is thus left freer to use such knowledge as it
has for the edification of the character; and that model for our example
or warning which the imagination constructs may always possibly be the
truth. According to the balance in it of apparent probability, with
edifying power it will beget conviction. Such a conviction may be doomed
to be superseded sooner or later; its value lies in its potency while it
lasts. The temper in which we look at our historical heritage is of more
importance to us now than the exactitude of our vision; for this latter
can never be proved, while the former approves itself by the fruit it
bears within us. It is better, more fruitful, to feel with Dürer about
the art of Ancient Greece than to know all that can be known of it
to-day and feel a great deal less. "Character calls forth character,"
said Goethe; we may add, "even from the grave." Now that the physical
miracle of the Resurrection has come to seem so unimportant and
uninteresting to educated men, it might be a wise economy to connect its
poetry with this experience, that great and creative characters can
raise men better worth knowing than Lazarus from the dead. Nietsche
thought that Shakespeare had brought Brutus back to life, (though he
knew very little of Roman history), and that Brutus was the Roman best
worth knowing. "Of all peoples, the Greeks dreamt the dream of life the
best," Goethe said; and again, "For all other arts we have to make some
allowance; to Greek art alone we are for ever debtors." To feel the
truth of these sayings with a passion similar to that shown in the
passages quoted above from Dürer, must surely be a great help to an
artist. Such a passion is an end in itself, or rather is the only means
by which we can win spiritual freedom from some of the heavier fetters
that modern life lays upon us. It freed Goethe even from Germany.




How is beauty to be judged?--upon that we have to deliberate.

A man by skill may bring it into every single thing, for in some things
we recognise that as beautiful which elsewhere would lack beauty.

Good and better in respect of beauty are not easy to discern; for it
would be quite possible to make two different figures, one stout, the
other thin, which should differ one from the other in every proportion,
and yet we scarce might be able to judge which of the two excelled in
beauty. What beauty is I know not, though it dependeth upon many things.

I shall here apply to what is to be called beautiful the same touchstone
as that by which we decide what is right. For as what all the world
prizeth as right we hold to be right, so what all the world esteemeth
beautiful that we will also hold for beautiful, and ourselves strive to
produce the like.

There are many causes and varieties of beauty; he that can prove them is
so much the more to be trusted.

The accord of one thing with another is beautiful, therefore want of
harmony is not beautiful. A real harmony linketh together things unlike.

Use is a part of beauty, whatever therefore is useless unto men is
without beauty.

The more imperfection is excluded so much the more doth beauty abide in
the work.

Guard thyself from superfluity.

But beauty is so put together in men and so uncertain is our judgment
about it, that we may perhaps find two men both beautiful and fair to
look upon, and yet neither resembleth the other, in measure or kind, in
any single point or part; and so blind is our perception that we shall
not understand whether of the two is the more beautiful, and if we give
an opinion on the matter it shall lack certainty.

Negro faces are seldom beautiful because of their very flat noses and
thick lips; moreover, their shinbone is too prominent, and the knee and
foot too long, not so good to look upon as those of the whites; and so
also is it with their hand. Howbeit, I have seen some amongst them whose
whole bodies have been so well-built and handsome that I never beheld
finer figures, nor can I conceive how they might be bettered, so
excellent were their arms and all their limbs.

Seeing that man is the worthiest of all creatures, it follows that, in
all pictures, the human figure is most frequently employed as a centre
of interest. Every animal in the world regards nothing but his own kind,
and the same nature is also in men, as every man may perceive
in himself.

[Illustration: Charcoal-drawing heightened with white on a green
prepared ground, in the Berlin Print Room _Face p_. 320]

Further, in order that he may arrive at a good canon whereby to bring
somewhat of beauty into our work, there-unto it were best for thee, it
bethinks me, to form thy canon from many living men. Howbeit seek only
such men as are held beautiful, and from such draw with all diligence.
For one who hath understanding may, from men of many different kinds,
gather something good together through all the limbs of the body. But
seldom is a man found who hath all his limbs good, for every man lacks

No single man can be taken as a model of a perfect figure, for no man
liveth on earth who uniteth in himself all manner of beauties.... There
liveth also no man upon earth who could give a final judgment upon what
the perfect figure of a man is; God only knoweth that.

And although we cannot speak of the greatest beauty of a living
creature, yet we find in the visible creation a beauty so far surpassing
our understanding that no one of us can fully bring it into his work.

If we were to ask how we are to make a beautiful figure, some would give
answer: According to human judgment (i.e., common taste). Others would
not agree thereto, neither should I without a good reason. Who will give
us certainty in this matter?[87]


I have already given what I believe to be the best answer to these
questions as to what beauty is and how it is to be judged. Beauty is
beauty as good is good (_see_ pp. 7, 8), or yellow, yellow; indeed, to
the second question, Matthew Arnold has given the only possible
answer--the relative value of beauties is "as the judicious would
determine," and the judicious are, in matters of art "finely touched and
gifted men." This criterion obviously cannot be easily or hastily
applied, nor could one ever be quite sure that in any given case it had
been applied to any given effect. But for practical needs we see that it
suffices to cast a slur on facile popularity, and vindicate over and
over again those who had been despised and rejected. What the true
artist desires to bring into his pictures is the power to move
finely-touched and gifted men. Not only are such by very much the
minority, but the more part of them being, by their capacity to be moved
and touched, easily wounded, have developed a natural armour of reserve,
of moroseness, of prejudice, of combativeness, of pedantry, which makes
them as difficult to address as wombats, or bears, or tortoises, or
porcupines, or polecats, or elephants. It is interesting to witness how
Dürer's self-contradictions show him to be aware of the great complexity
of these difficulties, as also to see how very near he comes to the true
answer. At one time he tells us:

"When men demand a work of a master, he is to be praised in so far as he
succeeds in satisfying their likings ..."[88]

At another he tells us:

"The art of painting cannot be truly judged save by such as are
themselves good painters; from others verily is it hidden even as a
strange tongue."[89]

Every "finely touched and gifted man" is not an artist; but every true
artist must, in some measure, be a finely touched and gifted man. There
is no necessity to limit the public addressed to those who themselves
produce: yet those who "can prove what they say with their hand" bring
credentials superior to those offered by any others,--although even
their judgment is not sure, as they may well represent a minority of
the true court of appeal which can never be brought together.

No doubt there is a judgment and a scale of values accepted as final by
each generation that gives any considerable attention to these
questions. Æsthetic appear to be exactly similar to religious
convictions. Those who are subject to them probably pass through many
successively, even though they all their lives hold to a certain fashion
which enables them to assert some obvious unity, like those who, in
religion, belong always to one sect. Yet if they were in a position to
analyse their emotions and leanings, no doubt very fundamental
contradictions would be discovered to disconcert them. Conviction and
enthusiasm in the arts and religion would seem to be the frame of mind
natural to those who assimilate, and are rendered productive by what
they study and admire. Convictions may never be wholly justifiable in
theory, but in practice when results are considered, it would seem that
no other frame of mind should escape censure.


[Footnote 87: "Literary Remains of Albrecht Dürer," p. 244.]

[Footnote 88: "Literary Remains of Albrecht Dürer," p. 245.]

[Footnote 89: _Idem_. p. 177.]




We regard a form and figure out of nature with more pleasure than
another, though the thing in itself is not necessarily altogether
better or worse.

Life in nature showeth forth the truth of these things (the words of
difference--i.e., the character of bodily habit to which they refer),
wherefore regard it well, order thyself thereby and depart not from
nature in thine opinions, neither imagine of thyself to invent aught
better, else shalt thou be led astray, for art standeth firmly fixed in
nature, and whoso can rend her forth thence he only possesseth her. If
thou acquirest her, she will remove many faults for thee from thy work.

Neither must the figure be made youthful before and old behind, or
contrariwise; for that unto which nature is opposed is bad. Hence it
followeth that each figure should be of one kind alone throughout,
either young or old, or middle-aged, or lean or fat, or soft or hard.

The more closely thy work abideth by life in its form, so much the
better will it appear; and this is true. Wherefore never more imagine
that thou either canst or shalt make anything better than God hath given
power to His creatures to do. For thy power is weakness compared to
God's creating hand. (_See_ continuation of passage, p. 10.)

Compare also passages quoted (pp. 289-291).


In these and other passages Dürer speaks about "nature," and enjoins on
the artist respect for and conformity to "nature" in a manner which
reminds us of that still current in dictums about art. Indeed, it seems
probable that Dürer's use of this term was almost as confused as that of
a modern art-critic. There are two senses in which the word nature is
employed, the confusion of which is ten times more confounded than any
of the others, and deserves, indeed, utter damnation, so prolific of
evil is it. We call the objects of sensory perception "nature"--whatever
is seen, heard, felt, smelt or tasted is a part of nature. And yet we
constantly speak of seeing, hearing, touching, smelling, and tasting
monstrous and unnatural things. And a monstrous and unnatural thing is
not merely one which is rare, but even more decidedly one of which we
disapprove. So that the second use of the term conveys some sense of
exceptionality, but far more of lack of conformity to human desires and
expectations. Now, many things which do not exist are perfectly natural
in this second sense: fairy-lands, heavens, &c. We perfectly understand
what is meant by a natural and an unnatural imagination, we perceive
readily all kind of degrees between the monstrous and the natural in
pure fiction. Now, this second use of the term nature is the only one
which is of any vital importance to our judgments upon works of art; yet
current judgments are more often than not based wholly on the first
sense, which means merely all objects perceived by the senses; and this,
draped in the authority and phrases belonging to judgments based on the
second and really pertinent sense.

Whole schools of painting and criticism have arisen and flourish whose
only reason for existence is the extreme facility with which this
confusion is made in European languages. It sounds so plausible that
some have censured Michael Angelo for bad drawing because men are not
from 9 to 15 or 16 heads high, and have not muscles so developed as the
gods and Titans of his creation. And others have objected to the angels,
the anatomical ambiguity of their wing articulations. To say that a
sketch or picture is out of tone or drawing damns, in many circles
to-day; in spite of the fact that the most famous masterpieces, if
judged by the same standard, would be equally offensive. This absurdity,
even where its grosser developments are avoided, breeds abundant
contradictions and confusion in the mouths of those who plume themselves
on culture and discernment. I hope not to have been too saucy,
therefore, in pointing out this pitfall to my readers in regard to these
sentences which I thought it worth while to quote from Dürer, merely
because if I did not do so I foresaw that they would be quoted
against me.




In the great earnestness with which the difficulties that beset art and
the artist impressed him, Dürer intended to write a _Vade Mecum_ for
those who should come after him. He has left among his MS. papers many
plans, rough drafts, and notes for some such work, the form of which no
doubt changed from time to time. The one which gives us the most
comprehensive idea of his intentions is perhaps the following.


Ihs. Maria

By the grace and help of God I have here set down all that I have learnt
in practice, which is likely to be of use in painting, for the service
of all students who would gladly learn. That, perchance, by my help they
may advance still further in the higher understanding of such art, as he
who seeketh may well do, if he is inclined thereto; for my reason
sufficeth not to lay the foundations of this great, far-reaching,
infinite art of true painting.

Item.--In order that thou mayest thoroughly and rightly comprehend what
is, or is called, an "artistic painter," I will inform thee and recount
to thee. If the world often goeth without an "artistic painter," whilst
for two or three hundred years none such appeareth, it is because those
who might have become such devote not themselves to art. Observe then
the three essential qualities following, which belong to the true artist
in painting. These are the three main points in the whole book.

I. The First Division of the book is the Prologue, and it compriseth
three parts (A, B, and C).

  A. The first part of the Prologue telleth us how the lad should be
  taught, and how attention should be paid to the tendency of his
  temperament. It falleth into six parts:

    1. That note should be taken of the birth of the child, in what Sign it
    occurreth; with some explanations. (Pray God for a lucky hour!)

    2. That his form and stature should be considered; with some

    3. How he ought to be nurtured in learning from the first; with some

    4. That the child should be observed, whether he learneth best when
    kindly praised or when chidden; with explanations.

    5. That the child be kept eager to learn and be not vexed.

    6. If the child worketh too hard, so that he might fall under the hand
    of melancholy, that he be enticed therefrom by merry music to the
    pleasuring of his blood.

  B. The second part of the Preface showeth how the lad should be brought
  up in the fear of God and in reverence, that so he may attain grace,
  whereby he may be much strengthened in intelligent art. It falleth into
  six parts:

    1. That the lad be brought up in the fear of God and be taught to pray
    to God for the grace of quick perception (_ubtilitet_) and to
    honour God.

    2. That he be kept moderate in eating and drinking, and also in

    3. That he dwell in a pleasant house, so that he be distracted by no
    manner of hindrance.

    4. That he be kept from women and live not loosely with them; that he
    not so much as see or touch one; and that he guard himself from all
    impurity. Nothing weakens the understanding more than impurity.

    5. That he know how to read and write well, and be also instructed in
    Latin, so far as to understand certain writings.

    6. That such an one have sufficient means to devote himself without
    anxiety (to his art), and that his health be attended to with medicines
    when needful.

  C. The third part of the Prologue teacheth us of the great usefulness,
  joy, and delight which spring from painting. It falleth into six parts:

    1. It is a useful art when it is of godly sort, and is employed for holy

    2. It is useful, and much evil is thereby avoided, if a man devote
    himself thereto who else had wasted his time.

    3. It is useful when no one thinks so, for a man will have great joy if
    he occupy himself with that which is so rich in joys.

    4. It is useful because a man gaineth great and lasting memory thereby
    if he applieth it aright.

    5. It is useful because God is thereby honoured when it is seen that He
    hath bestowed such genius upon one of His creatures in whom is such
    art. All men will be gracious unto thee by reason of thine art.

    6. The sixth use is that if thou art poor thou mayest by such art come
    unto great wealth and riches.

II. The Second Division of the book treateth of Painting itself; it also
is threefold.

  A. The first part is of the freedom of painting; in six ways.

  B. The second part is of the proportions of men and buildings, and what
  is needful for painting; in six ways.[90]

    1. Of the proportions of men.
    2. Of the proportions of horses.
    3. Of the proportions of buildings.
    4. Of perspective.
    5. Of light and shade.
    6. Of colours, how they are to be made to resemble nature.

  C. The third part is of all that a man conceives as subject for

III. The Third Division of the book is the Conclusion; it also hath
three parts.

  A. The first part shows in what place such an artist should dwell to
  practise his art; in six ways.

  B. The second part shows how such a wonderful artist should charge
  highly for his art, and that no money is too much for it, seeing that it
  is divine and true; in six ways.

The third part speaks of praise and thanksgiving which he should render
unto God for His grace, and which others should render on his behalf;
in six ways.


It is in the variety and completeness of his intentions that we perceive
Dürer's kinship with the Renascence; he comprehends the whole of life in
his idea of art training.

In his persuasion of the fundamental necessity of morality he is akin to
the best of the Reformation. It is in the union of these two perceptions
that his resemblance to Michael Angelo lies. There is a rigour, an
austerity which emanates from their work, such as is not found in the
work of Titian or Rembrandt or Leonardo or Rubens or any other mighty
artist of ripe epochs. Yet we find both of them illustrating the
licentious legends of antiquity, turning from the Virgin to Amymone and
Leda, from Christ to Apollo and Hercules. By their action and example
neither joins either the Reformation or the Renascence in so far as
these movements may be considered antagonistic; nor did they find it
inconsistent to acknowledge their debt to Greece and Rome, even while
accepting the gift of Jesus' example as freely as it was offered.

Not only does Dürer insist on the necessity of a certain consonancy
between the surrounding influences and the artist's capacity, which
should be both called forth and relieved by the interchange of rivalry
with instruction, of seclusion with music or society, but the process
which Jesus made the central one of his religion is put forward as
essential; he must form himself on a precedent example. I have already
quoted from Reynolds at length on this point.

I will merely add here some notes from another MS. fragment of Dürer's
bearing on the same points.

He that would be a painter must have a natural turn thereto.

Love and delight therein are better teachers of the Art of Painting than
compulsion is.

If a man is to become a really great painter he must be educated thereto
from his very earliest years. He must copy much of the work of good
artists until he attain a free hand.

To paint is to be able to portray upon a flat surface any visible thing
whatsoever that may be chosen.

It is well for any one first to learn how to divide and reduce, to
measure the human figure, before learning anything else.


[Footnote 90: The following list comes from another sheet of the MS.
(in. 70), but was dearly intended for this place. It is jotted down on a
thick piece of paper, on which there are also geometrical designs.]




If thou wishest to model well in painting, so as to deceive the
eyesight, thou must be right cunning in thy colours, and must know how
to keep them distinct, in painting, one from another. For example, thou
paintest two coats of mantles, one white the other red; thou must deal
differently with them in shading. There is light and shadow on all
things, wherever the surface foldeth or bendeth away from the eye. If
this were not so, everything would look flat, and then one could
distinguish nothing save only a chequerwork of colours.

If then thou art shading the white mantle, it must not be shaded with so
dark a colour as the red, for it would be impossible for a white thing
to yield so dark a shadow as a red. Neither could they be compared one
with another, save that in total absence of daylight everything is
black, seeing that colour cannot be recognised in darkness. Though,
therefore, in such a case, the theory allows one, without blame, to use
pure black for the shadows of a white object, yet this can seldom
come to pass.

Moreover, when thou paintest anything in one colour--be it red, blue,
brown, or any mixed colour--beware lest thou make it so bright in the
lights that it departs from its own kind. For example, an uneducated man
regardeth thy picture wherein is a red coat. "Look, good friend," saith
he, "in one part the coat is of a fair red and in another it is white
or pale in colour." That same is to be blamed, neither hast thou done it
aright. In such a case a red object must be painted red all over and yet
preserve the appearance of solidity; and so with all colours. The same
must be done with the shadows, lest it be said that a fair red is soiled
with black Wherefore be careful that thou shade each colour with a
similar colour. Thus I hold that a yellow, to retain its kind, must be
shaded with a yellow, darker toned than the principal colour. If thou
shade it with green or blue, it remaineth no longer in keeping, and is
no longer yellow, but becometh thereby a shot colour, like the colour of
silk stuffs woven of threads of two colours, as brown and blue, brown
and green, dark yellow and green, chestnut-brown and dark yellow, blue
and seal red, seal red and brown, and the many other colours one sees.
If a man hath such as these to paint, where the surface breaketh and
bendeth away the colours divide themselves so that they can be
distinguished one from another, and thus must thou paint them. But where
the surface lieth flat one colour alone appeareth. Howbeit, if thou art
painting such a silk and shadest it with one colour (as a brown with a
blue) thou must none the less shade the blue with a deeper blue where it
is needful. If often cometh to pass that such silks appear brown in the
shadows, as if one colour stood before the other. If thy model beareth
such a garment, thou must shade the brown with a deeper brown and not
with blue. Howbeit, happen what may, every colour must in shading keep
to its own class.


The great genius Hokusai, who has obtained for popular art in Japan a
success comparable to that of the best classic masterpieces of that
country and to the drawings and etchings of Rembrandt, a master of an
altogether kindred nature, wrote a little treatise on the difference of
aim noticeable in European and Japanese art. From the few Dutch pictures
which he had been able to examine, he concluded that European art
attempted to deceive the eye, whereas Japanese art laboured to express
life, to suggest movement, and to harmonise colour. What is meant is
easily grasped when we set before the mind's eye a picture, by Teniers
and a page of Hokusai's "Mangwa." On the other hand, if one chose a
sketch by Rembrandt to represent Dutch art, the difference could no
longer be apparent. If the aim of European art had ever in serious
examples been to deceive the eye, our painting would rank with
legerdemain and Maskelyne's famous box trick; for it is to be doubted if
it could ever so well have attained its end as even a second-rate
conjurer can. I have cited a passage in which Reynolds confronts the
work of great artists with the illusions of the camera obscura (see p.
237). The adept musical performer who reproduces the noises of a
farmyard is the true parallel to the lesser Dutch artists; he deceives
the ear far better than they deceive the eye. For every picture has a
surface which, unless very carefully lighted, must immediately destroy
the illusion, even if it were otherwise perfect. Nevertheless, Dürer in
the foregoing passage seems to accept Hokusai's verdict that the aim of
his painting is to deceive the eye; forgetful of all that he has
elsewhere written about the necessity of beauty, the necessity of
composition, the superiority of rough sketches over finished works.

When a painter has conceived in his heart a vision of beauty, whether he
suggests it with a few strokes of the pen or elaborates it as thoroughly
as Jan Van Eyck did, he wishes it to be taken as a report of something
seen. This is as different from wishing to deceive the eye as for some
one to say "and then a dog barked," instead of imitating the barking of
a dog. A circumstantial description in words and a picture by Van Eyck
or Veronese are equally intended to pass as reports of something
visually conceived or actually seen. Pictures would have to be made
peep-shows of before they could veritably deceive; and Jan Van Beers, a
modern Dutchman, actually turned some of his paintings into peep-shows.
Dürer in the following passage is speaking of the separate details or
objects which go to make up a picture, not of the picture as a whole; he
never tried to make peep-shows; his signature or an inscription is often
used to give the very surface that must destroy the peep-show illusion a
definite decorative value. The rest of his remarks have become
commonplaces; nor has he written at such length as to give them their
true limitations and intersubordination. They will be easily understood
by those who remember that art is concerned with producing the illusion
of a true report of something seen, not that of an actual vision. Such a
report may be slight and brief; it may be stammered by emotion; it may
have been confused or tortured to any degree by the mental condition of
him who delivers it: if it produces the conviction of his sincerity, it
achieves the only illusion with which art is concerned, and its value
will depend on its beauty and the beauty of the means employed to
deliver it.



After turning over Dürer prints and drawings, after meditating on his
writings, we feel that we are in the presence of one of those forces
which are constant and equal, which continue and remain like the growth
of the body, the return of seasons, the succession of moods. This is
always among the greatest charms of central characters: they are mild
and even, their action is like that of the tides, not that of storms.
"If only you had my meekness," Dürer wrote to Pirkheimer (set: p. 85),
half in jest doubtless, but with profound truth:--though the word
meekness does not indeed cover the whole of what we feel made Dürer's
most radical advantage over his friend; at other times we might call it
naïvety, that sincerity of great and simple natures which can never be
outflanked or surprised. Sometimes it might be called pride, for it has
certainly a great deal of self-assurance behind it, the self-assurance
of trees, of flowers, of dumb animals and little children, who never
dream that an apology for being where and what they are can be expected
of them. Such natures when they come home to us come to stop; we may go
out, we may pay no heed to them, we may forget them, but they abide in
the memory, and some day they take hold of us with all the more force
because this new impression will exactly tally with the former one; we
shall blush for our inconstancy, our indifference, our imbecility, which
have led us to neglect such a pregnant communion. Not only persons but
works of art produce this effect, and they are those with whom it is the
greatest benefit to live.

It is true that, compared with Giotto, Rembrandt, or Michael Angelo,
Dürer does not appear comprehensive enough. It is with him as with
Milton; we wish to add others to his great gifts, above all to take him
out from his surroundings, to free him from the accidents of place and
time. In one sense he is poorer than Milton: we cannot go to him as to a
source of emotional exhilaration. If he ever proves himself able so to
stir us, it is too occasionally to be a reason why we frequent him as it
may be one why we frequent Milton. Nevertheless, the greater characters
of control which are his in an unmatched degree, his constancy, his
resource and deliberate effectiveness, joined to that blandness, that
sunshine, which seems so often to replace emotion and thought in works
of image-shaping art, are of priceless beneficence, and with them we
would abide. Intellectual passion may seem indeed sometimes to dissipate
this sunshine and control without making good their loss. Such cases
enable us to feel that the latter are more essential: and it is these
latter qualities which Dürer possessed in such fulness. In return for
our contemplation, they build up within us the dignity of man and render
it radiant and serene. Those who have felt their influence longest and
most constantly will believe that they may well warrant the modern
prophet who wrote:

The idea of beauty and of human nature perfect on all its sides, which
is the dominant idea of poetry, is a true and invaluable idea, though it
has not yet had the success that the idea of conquering the obvious
faults of our animality and of a human nature perfect on the moral
side--which is the dominant idea of religion--has been enabled to have;
and it is destined, adding to itself the religious idea of a devout
energy, to transform and govern the other.



Adam (Melchor)



Altdorfer (Albrecht)


Andreae (Hieronymus)

Angelico (Fra Beato)




Arnold (Matthew)


Balccarres (Lord)

Bamberg (Library)

Barbari (Jacopo dei)

Barberini (Gallery)

Barye (Antoine Louis)


Baudelaire (Charles)


Beers (Jan van)

Beham (Barthel and Sebald)


Bellini (Gentile)

Bellini (Giovanni)


Blake (William)


Bonnat (Léon)

Borgia (Cesare)

Borgia (Alexander), see Pope



Breslau (Bishop of)

Breughel (Peter)

British Museum.

Browning (Robert)



Burgkmair (Hans)

Butler (Bishop)

Caietan (Cardinal)


Camerarius (Kunz Kamerer)


Celtes (Conrad)

Charles V. (Emperor)



Colet (Dean)


Cologne (Köln)

Conway (Sir Martin)

Cook (Sir Francis)


Cranach (Lucas)



Dodgson (Campbell)

Dolce (Ludovico)


Dürer (Albert the Elder)

Dürer (Agnes, nee Frey)

Dürer, Andreas
  Brothers and Sisters
  Father-in-law, Hans Frey

Dürer, Hans

Dürer's House,

Mother (Barbara Helper)

Dürer (Quotations from),

    Art of Fortification,
    Human Proportions,
    Measurement with Compass.

    Adam's hand,
    Christ bearing His Cross,
    Dance of monkeys,
    Lucas van Leyden,
    Memento Mei,
    Mein Angnes,
    Mount of Olives,
    Nepotis (Florent),
    Pfaffroth (Hans),
    Plankfelt (Jobst),
    Women's Bath,

  Engravings on Metal:
    Agony in the Garden,
    Great Fortune,
    Jerome (St.),
    Knight (The),

    Adam and Eve,
    Adoration of Magi,
    Christ among Doctors,
    Coronation of Virgin,
    Dresden Altar Piece,
    Feast of Bose Garlands,
    Madonna with Iris,
    Martyrdom of Ten Thousand,
    Paumgartner, Altar Piece,
    Preachers (The Pour),
    Road to Calvary,
    Trinity and All Saints.

    Of himself, Leipzig, Madrid, Munich,
    Holzschuher (Hieronymus),
    Imhof, Hans (?),
    Kleeberger (Johannes)
    Krel (Oswolt),
    Muffel (Jacob),
    Orley (Bernard van),
    Unknown (Vienna),
    Unknown (Hampton Court),
    Unknown (Boston)
    Unknown Woman (Berlin),
    Unknown Girl (Berlin),

    Assumption of Magdalen,
    St. Christopher,
    Gate of Honour,
    Jerome (St.),
    Life of the Virgin,
    Last Supper,
    Little Passion.


Eck (Dr.)

Eckenstein (Miss)






Eyck (Jan van)

FLAUBERT (Gustave)



Frederick the Wise (Elector of Saxony)

Frey (Hans)

Frey (Felix),






Giehlom (Dr. Carl),



Goes (Hugo vander)


Gospel of
  St. Luke,
  St. Matthew,
  St. John,

Grapheus (Cornelius),

Greece, Greeks, Greek,

Grien (Baldung),

Heaton (Mrs.),

_Heller (Jacob)_.

Henry VIII,

Hess (Eoban),

Hess (Martin),








Hutten (Ulrich von),

Imhof (Hans),


Jeanne D'Arc,


John (St.),

Jonson (Ben),


Keats (John),

Kolb (Anton),

Kratzer (Nicholas),

Kress (Christopher),

Lady Margaret (Governess of the Netherlands),

Landauer (Matthew),


Leonardo da Vinci,

Link (Wenzel),




Lotto (Lorenzo),


Lucas van Leyden,



Mabuse (Jan de),




Mantegna (Andrea),




Mark (St.),


Maximilian I.,



Michael Angelo,

Miller (A.W., Esq.),

Millet (Jean Francois),




_Monthly Review_,

Montpelier (Town Council),


Morley (Lord and Lady),


Muffel (Jacob),





Nützel (Caspar),

Orley (Bernard van)

Ostendorfer (Michael)

Pacioli (Luca)



Paul (St.)

Paumgartner (Stephan)

Peasants' War

Penz (Georg)

Peter (St,)


Pirkheimer (Charitas)

Pitti (Gallery)






  Adrian IV.
  (Alexander VI.)
  (Julius II.)
  (Leo X.)

Porto Venere








Reformation, Reformers



Reuohlin (Dr.)


Ricketts (C. S.)

Rochefoucauld (La)

Roger van der Weyden


Rossetti (Dante Gabriel)

Rubens (Peter Paul)


Scheurl (Christopher)

Schongauer (Martin)


Shannon (C. H.)


Sistine (Chapel)

Spalatin (George)

Spengler (Lazarus)

Stabius (Johannes)

Städel Institut

Stromer (Wolf)

Strong (S. A)

Swift (Dean)

Teniers (David)

Thawing (Dr. Moritz)


Tschertte (Johannes)

Uffizi (Gallery)


Van Dyck

Varnbüler (Ulrioh)




Veronese (Paul)


Verrall (Dr.)




Warham (Archbishop)

Watteail (Antoine)

Watts (G. F.)

Weimar (Grand Ducal Museum)

Whistler (James McNeil)





Würzburg (Bishop of)



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