1471 - Nuremberg - 1528
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Das Löwenwappen mit dem Hahn – Coat of Arms with a Lion and a Cock ca. 1502–3
engraving, 185 x 118 mm (7 5/16 x 4 5/8 inches)
Bartsch 100; Meder 97 a? (of g); Schoch/Mende/Scherbaum 35
Thomas Miller Whitehead, London (Lugt 2449)
Sir Philip Burne-Jones (acc. to a pencil inscription verso)
P. & D. Colnaghi & Co, London (their stock no. in pencil verso C23536)
The heraldic symbols in this coat of arms are not associated with any specific aristocratic family; indeed, the elevation of the rooster, a common barnyard bird, perched commandingly with outspread wings at the top of the sheet, well above the stylized lion trapped on its heraldic shield, might be seen as a very conscious subversion of aristocratic pretentions. Such freely invented coats of arms reflect the increasingly widespread adoption of aristocratic imagery by the emerging middle classes, including artisans, from the late Middle Ages. (In 1523 Dürer even created his own woodcut coat of arms.) In Coat of Arms with Lion and Rooster, the artist deploys the motifs in a fantasy piece that allows him to play with a wide range of textures and ornamental forms. The lavish foliate scrollwork twisting behind the shield, with elaborate shading creating almost three-dimensional effects, reminds us that the artist originally trained as a goldsmith, the craft in which the tradition of pure ornamental engraving on metal is thought to have originated.
Coat of Arms with a Skull 1503
engraving; 219 x 157 mm (8 5/8 x 6 1/8 inches)
Bartsch 101; Meder 98 Ia (of IId); Schoch/Mende/Scherbaum 37
WATERMARK high crown (Meder 20)
A very fine impression with an esteemed provenance.
In this heraldic tableau, Dürer deploys two styles of engraving—the delicate handling of texture evident in his Saint Eustace (Bartsch 57) and the Nemesis (Bartsch 77) with the bold manner of the Sea Monster (Bartsch 71) and the Hercules (Bartsch 73)—to create an extraordinary memento mori using the language of heraldry. He establishes a perfect synthesis between contrasting pictorial elements: the smooth skin and elegantly pleated costume of the young maiden with the spectacularly shaggy wild man who lurks at her left shoulder; the shiny steel of the intricately ornamented helmet with the duller metal of the shield; and the abundantly feathered wings and lavish foliate scrolls with the bleak rocky landscape below.
While heraldry is a means of identification in everyday life, it is liberated from such mundane purpose in the realm of art to which this engraver’s tour-de-force belongs. “The wild man is a supporter; the shield is inclined towards the woman, we may suppose in heraldic courtoisie. Death acknowledges as his spouse this girl, dressed zum dantz (for the dance) as Dürer described her on a study he used for the engraving (Kupferstichkabinett, Basel; Winkler 227), and she wears a festal or bridal crown, the crown of life. Touching the bridle of earthly passions, she is almost molested by the wild man; but his expression suggests severity, hers the complacency of youth” (N.G. Stogdon, Catalogue XI: Early Northern Engravings, 1998, no. 50). Or might it be that the maiden does not yet seem to have noticed the essential motif on the coat of arms supported by her hirsute suitor?
Der Apostel Thomas - Saint Thomas 1514
Bartsch 48; Meder 50 a/b (of d); Schoch/Mende/Scherbaum