Season 1 – Episode 9

Albrecht Dürer and Tension of Reformation Art

Ep.9 Art & Reformation With Sara Waskow

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.

The Last Supper – Albrecht Dürer (German, Nuremberg 1471–1528 Nuremberg)


Primary Sources 

 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.

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.

Secondary Sources 

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.

Published by Hear the Voice and Prayer

How can we study belief? What are the longer term implications of religious change in society? These connected questions form the core of our course and our investigation of Early Modern Europe (c. 1450-1789). Indeed, the meaning of belief was the central issue of contention in Europe from the dawn of the Renaissance until the twilight of the eighteenth century and its Revolutions. The shattering of the Christian consensus and the rise of the empirical frame was a pathway cleared with the twin swords of Humanism’s cry of ad fontes and Luther’s injunction of sola fide. The route uncovered was a journey to the “Modern” in all its beauty and ugliness. Yet, stones lay upon this trail, rocky reminders whose pain and obstacle convey the irony that Europe’s greatest religious revolution resulted in the ultimate secularization of the continent and of the West in general. Still, secularization, caught as it is in a dialectic with Christianity, is a form of belief, and belief remains central. The effort to experience, define, and understand both acceptable and unacceptable beliefs will be our compass to map Europe’s Early Modern world, the world of unfolding Reformations. This course will consist of primary and secondary readings, lecture, classroom discussion, as well as multiple student writing assignments culminating in a final research based student podcast.

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