Albrecht Dürer

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Albrecht Dürer
(1471–1528)

Design for the Decoration of a Saddle

Signed with the artist's monogram, and dated in lighter ink by another hand, 1517

Pen and dark brown ink
8 5/8 x 11 5/16 inches (220 x 287 mm)

Purchased by Pierpont Morgan, 1910

I, 256
Item description: 

Dürer gained international reputation as a draftsman yet also participated in the renowned metalwork tradition of his native Nuremberg. His father and brothers were goldsmiths, and Nuremberg was, along with Augsburg, a center of armor production during Dürer's lifetime. This design for a saddle decoration—perhaps a pommel plate or seat—was probably made for Dürer's principal patron, Emperor Maximilian I. Using fine ink lines, the artist depicted intricate grapevines interspersed with motifs that include the double-headed eagle of the Hapsburg family, a man playing bagpipes, a nude woman holding a mirror, and a fantastic half-unicorn, half-serpent creature. Complex yet clear, this design demonstrates Dürer's ability to adjust his draftsmanship to meet the demands of a local craft.