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Key Dates and Events in the Life of Albrecht Dürer

May 21, 1471

Silver point Self-Portrait, dated 1484.

Albrecht Dürer was born in Nuremberg the son of goldsmith Albrecht Dürer the Elder (died 1502) and Barbara Holper (died 1514). The young Dürer begins his artistic training in his father's workshop.

Silver Point Portrait of Dürer's father

Nov. 30, 1486 Dürer starts his four year apprenticeship in the shop of the Nuremberg painter and printmaker Michael Wolgemut. While working for Wolgemut, Dürer probably participated in the creation of the so-called Nuremberg Chronicle which was published in 1493. This ambitious publishing venture was a product of the collaboration of Hartmann Schedel, the editor of the text, Michael Wolgemut, the principal illustrator, along with Wilhelm Pleydenwurff, Anton Koberger, the printer and publisher. The project was sponsored 1487 or 1488 by two Nuremberg patricians, Sebald Schreyer and his brother-in-law Sebastian Kammermeister. Koberger was also the godfather of Albrecht Dürer. Koberger's advertisement of the ambitious project places an emphasis on the illustrations of the text: "nothing like this has hitherto appeared to increase and heighten the delight of men of learning and of everyone who has any education at all.... Indeed, I venture to promise you, reader, so great delight in reading it that you will think you are not reading a series of stories, but looking at them with your own eyes. For you will see there not only portraits of emperors, popes, philosophers, poets and other famous men each shown in the proper dress of his time, but also views of the most famous cities and places throughout Europe....Farewell, and do not let this book slip through your hands." The emphasis on the illustrations in this text anticipates Dürer's Apocalypse cycle later in the decade.
1490-1494 Beginning in 1489 or 1490, Dürer, now eighteen,leaves Nuremberg to work as a journeyman in Basel (1491-1493), Colmar (1492), and Strassburg (1493-1494). Through the connections of Dürer's godfather the publisher Anton Koberger, Dürer gets commissions as an illustrator in these cities.

St. Jerome in His Study, 1492. Frontispiece for The Letters of St. Jerome published by Nikolaus Kessler in 1492.

July 7, 1494 Dürer returns to Nuremberg, and he marries Agnes Frey, the daughter of artist Hans Frey. Dürer would write later in the Family Chronicle: "And when I returned home, Hans Frey made a deal with my father and gave me his daughter, Miss Agnes by name, and with her he gave me 200 florins, and held the wedding --it was on St. Margaret's Day [July 7] in the year 1494."

Self-Portrait , 1493. An inscription above his head reads: "My affairs must go as ordained on high." He holds a spray of Eryngium, a plant understood to be an aphrodisiac and symbolic of luck in romance. The spiky leaves of the plant have echoes of the Crown of Thorns.

1494-1495 Dürer makes his first trip to Italy. He lives in Venice from the fall of 1494 to the late spring of 1495. This trip is crucial in his intellectual and artistic development. He is introduced to Italian painting and becomes acquainted with artistic theory. Dürer will maintain interests in theories perspective and human proportions throughout the remainder of his career. He also becomes acquainted with Humanist culture. When Dürer returns to Nuremberg he will establish a close relationship with the Nuremberg Humanists especially Willibald Pirckheimer.
1496-1498 Dürer produces The Apocalypse. This great woodcut cycle established Dürer's fame throughout Europe. The lay-out of the cycle with the illustrations on the recto and the text on the verso suggests the privileging of the illustrations over the text. This work appealed to an audience interested in millenial concerns as the year 1500 approaches. Dürer is responsible for the illustrating, printing, and financing of this project. Although it is not certain, it seems that Dürer was not only responsible for the designing of the illustrations but also the cutting of the blocks, a responsibility regularly given over to an independent specialist, or formschneider. It is significant to note that Dürer in making the Apocalypse is taking an economic risk and making something for a general audience and not to appeal to the interests of an individual patron.

John's Vision of the Seven Candlesticks, from The Apocalypse (figure 1) .

Four Horsemen from The Apocalypse (figure 3) .

Seven Trumpeting Angels from The Apocalypse (figure 6).

Revelation 8: 1-13 and 9: 1-12.

Seven Trumpeting Angels, from Cologne Bible, 1483.

Adoration of the Lamb, from The Apocalypse.

c. 1498 Probably in 1498, Dürer completed an engraving he entitled Das Meerwunder or the Sea Monster. While like a Rape of Europa , there is no known textual source for the image. Probably the same year, he completed another mythological engraving that has been identified by Erwin Panofsky as Hercules at the Crossroad. Hercules is confronted by two women that present the alternative paths of his life, Pleasure or Virtue.

Das Meerwunder (Sea Monster)

Hercules at the Crossroad.

1498 The same year that he publishes The Apocalypse, the twenty-six-year-old Dürer paints his Self-Portrait in the Prado.

Self-Portrait, Prado.

1500 Dürer paints his Münich Self-Portrait.

Self-Portrait, Münich.

1504 Creates the Adam and Eve engraving.

Adam and Eve, engraving. (300 dpi image)

1505-1507 Dürer leaves for Italy for his second trip during the summer of 1505. Paints his Feast of the Rose Garlands for German merchants. Dürer mentions the success of this painting in a letter to his friend Willibald Pirckheimer in September, 1506. The reputation of Dürer leads to the Venetian senate offering Dürer the position of civic painter. Dürer returns to Nuremberg in January of 1507.

Feast of the Rose Garlands

1509 Dürer becomes a member of the larger city council of Nuremberg. This is the highest civic position a non-patrician could hold in Nuremberg. He also acquires a much larger house.
1511 Dürer publishes the woodcut cycle entitled the Large Passion , the cycle of engravings entitled the Small Passion, and publishes a second edition of The Apocalypse.

Crucifixion from the Large Passion, woodcut, published 1511.

1513-1514 Dürer creates his so-called three master engravings. The Knight, Death and the Devil is dated 1513 while St. Jerome in His Study and Melencolia I are completed in 1514. Similarities in size (c. 24.5 X 19 cm), thematic links, and technical accomplishment suggest that these three were intended as a series. The Knight, Death and the Devil is understood to represent the vita activa or the active life, while the St. Jerome in His Study illustrates the vita contemplativa or the contemplative life. Melencolia I can be associated with creative artist and the limitations of human knowledge.


Knight, Death, and the Devil, 1513, engraving, 25 X 19 cm.




St. Jerome in His Study, 1514, engraving, 24.7 X 18.8 cm. (300 dpi image)

Melancolia I, 1514, engraving, 23.9 X 16.8 cm.


Martin Luther posts his 95 Theses on the Power and Efficacy of Indulgences on the door of the church in Wittenberg. This is seen traditionally as the beginning of the Protestant Reformation. Dürer participated in meetings in 1516 and 1517 among a group of Nuremberg patricians and intellectuals about the ideas of Luther. Dürer would become a strong supporter of Luther and moderate Protestantism.
Dürer along with his wife travel to the Netherlands. He visits Antwerp, Bruges, Brussels, and other towns.
Publishes A Course in the Art of Measurement with Compass and Ruler. Excerpt from the dedication to Pirckheimer.
April 6, 1528 Albrecht Dürer dies.