Friday, December 10, 2010

Dürer! Me! Working!

Sometimes, at work, we just get totally awesome things. Last week we had two Dürer engravings. Two! Dürers! And I got to treat one!!!

When it comes to printmaking, German artist Albrecht Dürer (1471 - 1528) is The Man. Freakishly talented as a youngster, by his twenties he was noted across Europe for his mad printmaking skills, and since that time has been regarded as one of (if not the most) important artists of the Northern Renaissance.

Self Portrait, 1500 (painting, obviously)

Like most successful artists of the day, it would be highly unusual if he cut the woodblocks for the prints himself. Most likely he drew the images for his woodcuts and then had a lower-level somebody on his team actually cut them from the block.

My art history classes were years ago, and though one particular printmaking course hit Dürer really hard, I can't be certain if he made his own engraving plates... but I'm inclined to think yes, because he spent some quality time as some sort of apprentice to a goldsmith, which would have involved engraving metal.

The Four Riders of Apocalypse, 1497-98, (woodcut)

We had two engravings, belonging to a private client, which were in pretty good condition and needed only did minor treatments. How fabulous though, to spend two days six inches away from one of these! People would just drop by my bench to look at it. The photographer told me that she admired it for about ten minutes before shooting the before treatment photograph. Sometimes I just sat there and looked at it.

Dürer's works were revolutionary. And because prints are portable and so easily reproduced (compared to things like paintings), his influence was felt across Europe. You could roughly break the history of European printmaking into Before Dürer and After Dürer.

(Please note, these are examples of Dürer's work, not necessarily images of the ones we had in the lab).

Melancholia I, 1514

Saint Jerome in His Study, 1514

These last two match the tonality of the paper much better than the straight black-and-white images do. The paper is over 500 years old, so it's going to be yellow/brownish.

Adam and Eve, 1504

Saint Anthony at the City, 1513


DPLK said...

Wow these designs are way beyond I had been imagining! No wonder everyone is awe-struck, I would be too to be in the presence of such a piece! Is it just me or is his self-portrait a bit Jesus-y? I guess anyone with such talent would be bound to have what would otherwise be called a narcissistic personality disorder!

Heather said...

If HB knew that you got to treat this, I bet he would pee his pants. How awesome!!

Jessica said...

It is a rather Jesus-y self-portrait, and he did it that way totally on purpose. I'm pretty sure I sat through at least two art history lectures about the topic... and that Heather was probably sitting next to me for the same ones!

HB would pee his pants!