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Albrecht Durer

Albrecht Dürer (1471–1528)
Coat of Arms of Michael Behaim, ca. 1520
11 5/8 x 8 1/8 inches (295 x 206 mm)
Purchased by the Morgan Library, 1930; 2006.81

Original woodblock for Coat of Arms of Michael Behaim
11 1/8 x 7 3/4 inches (282 x 197 mm) Purchased by J. P. Morgan, Jr., 1926; AZ127
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It was through his printmaking that Dürer's skill as a draftsman gained international recognition. He worked in engraving, etching, and the form used here, woodcut. Heraldic designs, in this case the coat of arms of the Behaim family, were a major type of commission. This print, perhaps a bookplate, was made for Michael Behaim, a Nuremberg patrician whose name appears on a legal document as witness to Dürer's purchase of a garden in 1512. The Morgan is fortunate also to have in its collection the woodblock used to make this print. A comparison of the block and the print illustrates the reversal that occurred in the printing process.

Transcription and translation of letter from Albrecht Dürer to Michael Behaim

thumbnail of back of woodblock
+zoom letter
Libr her michell beheim Ich shick ewch dis waben widr pit latz beleiben es wurt ewchs so keiner verpessern dan Ich habs mit fleis kunstlich gemacht dorudys sehen vud ferstend dy werden ewch woll berscheid sagn soll man dy lewble awff dem helm vber sich werffen so verdecken su dy pinden.

Albrecht Dürer

Dear Master Michael Beheim, I send you back the coat of arms again. Please let it stand as it is. No one could improve it for you because it was made artistically and with care. Those who see it and understand such matters will tell you so. If the leafwork on the helmet were curled backward, it would hide the braid.

Your humble servant
Albrecht Dürer

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The programs of The Morgan Library & Museum are made possible with public funds from the New York City Department of Cultural Affairs in partnership with the City Council, and by the New York State Council on the Arts with the support of Governor Andrew Cuomo and the New York State Legislature.

Background images: Photography by Todd Eberle unless otherwise noted. © 2006 Todd Eberle.