Design for the Decoration of a Saddle
Signed with the artist's monogram, and dated in lighter ink by another hand, 1517
Purchased by Pierpont Morgan, 1910
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.