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Albrecht Dürer

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Albrecht Dürer
(1471–1528)

Design for Decoration in the Town Hall of Nuremberg, 1521

Signed with the artist's monogram and dated in wreath at lower center, 1521

Pen and brown ink with watercolor, silhouetted and mounted on another sheet, probably by the artist
10 1/16 x 13 13/16 inches (256 x 351 mm)

Purchased by Pierpont Morgan, 1910

I, 257
Item description: 

As he advocated in the Four Books on Human Proportion, Dürer united a variety of sources in this watercolor design for a wall in the town hall of Nuremberg. Between arched windows, roundels depict the Old Testament stories of David and Bathsheba and Samson and Delilah, as well as the classical legend of Aristotle and Phyllis. Collectively, they share a popular contemporary theme: the power of women. Surrounding the vignettes is decorative foliage inhabited by pagan satyrs and the Christian motif of the pelican. The choice of a well-known artist like Dürer for this commission denotes civic leaders' conviction that the town hall was not only a place of government but also a source of local pride. Nevertheless, this decorative scheme was never realized.