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Albrecht Durer

Albrecht Dürer (1471–1528)
Design for the Decoration of a Saddle
Pen and dark brown ink
Signed with the artist's monogram, and dated in lighter ink by another hand, 1517
8 5/8 x 11 5/16 inches (220 x 287 mm)
Purchased by Pierpont Morgan, 1910; I, 256
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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.

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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.