Albrecht Dürer and Tension of Reformation Art
Albrecht Dürer (1471-1528) was perhaps the most prominent artist of the German experience of Northern Humanism.
Producing commissions for the Holy Roman Emperor Maximillian, Frederick III the Wise of Saxony, and towns all over the German lands, his works interacted with the highest levels of society and remain a standard of artistic skill to this day. Yet, though his clients reached the top of Holy Roman Imperial society, he was also at the forefront of a consuming revolution reaching down the social scale as well. He pioneered reproducibility in the art trade through his masterful woodcut illustrations signed with his prominent AD.
Fame and prominence brought Dürer into contact with the leading minds of his day including Erasmus and Luther. Given this correspondence and his fame, the question of Dürer’s connection to the spiritual tumult of the sixteenth century has long preoccupied scholars. Here, examining two Dürer compositions of the “Last Supper,” a perspective emerges that ties Dürer to an abiding interest at the end of his life in Lutheran leaning sympathies.
Albrecht Dürer. The Last Supper, from The Large Passion. 1510. Woodcut, 15 9/16 x 11 5/16 in. (39.6 x 28.8 cm). Metropolitan Museum of Art. https://www.metmuseum.org/art/collection/search/387750.
Albrecht Dürer. The Last Supper. 1523. Woodcut, 8 3/8 x 5 3/4 in. (21.3 x 14.6 cm). Metropolitan Museum of Art. https://www.metmuseum.org/art/collection/search/388486
Stephanie Buck, Julien Chapuis, Stephan Kemperdick, Michael Roth, Jeffrey Chipps Smith, and Dirk Syndram. Renaissance and Reformation: German Art in the Age of Dürer and Cranach. Edited by Los Angeles County Museum of Art, Staatliche Museen zu Berlin, Staatliche Kunstsammlungen Dresden, and Bayerische Staatsgemäldesammlungen München. Munich: Prestel Verlag, 2016.
John Dillenberger. Images and Relics: Theological Perceptions and Visual Images in Sixteenth-Century Europe. New York: Oxford University Press, 1999.
Larry Silver and Jeffrey Chipps Smith, eds. The Essential Dürer. Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 2011.
Jeffrey Chips Smith. Dürer. New York: Phaidon, 2012.