Durer Albrechts portrait at the age of 26 years is one of the four self-portrait images he created during his painting career. The first two portraits are a representation of the artists younger years before he became a prominent painter in the Renaissance. After his immigration to Italy, Durer received more recognition amongst contemporaries than he did in Germany. He studied art and mathematics in Italy alongside improving his artistry. He was gratified by how Italian artists were elevated in the society, especially because he had not experienced such fame at home. After going back to his hometown of Nuremburg, Durer asserted his new position in the society and manifested it with a new lifestyle. A comparison of his portraits at 22 years and at 26 years just describes how he changed in four years. This change is attributable to his marriage to Agnes Frey and his experience as a journeyman painter in Italy. At 26, he had attained the status of a Nuremburg gentleman and owned a painting studio (Waetzoldt 13). In summary, Durers self-portrait at 26 is an icon of stylish Dutch painter with a taste of fashion marked by expensively embroidered robes, and that of a man at the zenith of his career.
Painted in 1498, the Self-Portrait of Prado is the turning point of Durers status. As Panofsky puts it, the painting is reconciled with the requirements of Italian monumentality, meaning that the artists post-1500 works made reference to his encounters in Italy (Panofsky 40). Unlike many of his earlier self-portraits, Durers posture in this particular paint is informal: his hands are crossed and in gloves. Panofsky posits that this posture is a show of good manners for a man at the helm of painting career at only 26 years (Panofsky 40). The painting was produced without any ulterior purpose, making it the first independent depiction of Albrecht Durer. When Durer became self-conscious as a result of getting into contact with the Italian Renaissance, he attained the status of a homo liberalis atque humanus,one that he could not have achieved before (Panofsky 40). In this painting Durer stares at the painter, while his torso is oriented to the wall. This pose, according to Panofsky, is undeniably an element of pride and vanity, although it is also an expression of a more than personal problem: Modernism and its effect on art in Germany (Panofsky 40).
Self-portraits act as an artists expression of his acumen in art. The central motive of all artists in creating any image is to bring out the resemblance between real life and art in the closest manner possible. All artists purpose to make the best out of their work, whether they are painting animate or inanimate objects. The human form in any work of art should not only represent the true image of the subject, but also illustrate the social and economic features associated with the subject. Durer, too, wished to show his person in his self-portraits. First he wanted to specify his age and class. Koerner describes Durer in the portrait as dressed in a lavish and festive clothing of modish state and design. (Koerner 37) The gloves that Durer is wearing were Nuremburgs specialty reserved for the middle and high class people. In this portrait, Koerner argues, Durer attempts to elevate himself above the social class in which he was born. He adds that Durer uses more lavish and serene settings and garb as compared to the ones he applies in the painting of the Tuchers and the Krels. The painting is marked with an Italian license that Koerner describes as soft modeling, architectonic construction. (Koerner 37) In other words, Koerner concurs with other Renaissance self-portrayal analysts that Durer had just rise a bar higher in the social ladder, and he adopted a new fashion to complement this (Jonathan 41).
The analysis of this portrait demonstrates that it is the iconic rather than the pictorial semiotics that determines the theme of a painting. The focus of this painting is on Durer rather than the negative space. A viewer spends considerable amount of time on the subjects face before moving to the background visible through a window. The color and lighting of the painting indicates that the subject may be leading a gloomy life, and the good days are behind him. Durers story tells otherwise. His bad days were behind him, and he was in his prime as a Nuremburg gentleman. The study of a picture is significantly affected by how close an observer looks an image (Elkins 2). When observed at an arms length, Durers face is that of a young man, although not of 26 years as purported. A closer look at the image, however, reveals the finer organic details that confirm that Durer was in his mid-20s at the time of painting.
Durer Albrechts Self Portrait at 26 is a personal story of a young man at the juncture between his dark old days and his bright future. Perhaps Durer made this painting at this point in his life to mark a new chapter as a German gentilhuomo. He succeeds in this portrayal, although it is noted that he was melancholic of the future of art in Germany, now that modernism was gaining ground in Europe.
Elkins, James, and Maja Naef, eds. What is an Image?. Vol. 2. Penn State Press, 2011.Koerner, Joseph Leo. The moment of self-portraiture in German Renaissance art. University of Chicago Press, 1997.Panofsky, Erwin, and Albrecht Durer. Albrecht Durer. Princeton UP, 1945.Sawday, Jonathan. "Self and selfhood in the seventeenth century." Rewriting the Self: Histories from the Renaissance to the Present (1997): 29-48.
Waetzoldt, Wilhelm. Durer and his times. Kessinger Publishing, 2006.
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