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Albrecht Durer

Albrecht Dürer (1471–1528)
Constructed Head of a Man in Profile, ca. 1512–13
Pen and brown ink and dark brown wash
9 9/16 x 7 7/16 inches (244 x 188 mm)
Purchased by Pierpont Morgan, 1910; I, 257b
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At one-eighth the height of the entire body, the head is the key to ideal classical proportion. Dürer first drew this head on the verso over a grid pattern, faintly visible through the sheet, and then traced it on the recto to ensure geometric precision. Such schematic delineations correspond to the theories of Vitruvius, the first-century B.C. Roman architect who related the ratio of buildings to those of the human body in his treatise On Architecture. Another possible source available to Dürer would have been the work of Italian Renaissance artists concerned with proportion, such as Leonbattista Alberti and Leonardo da Vinci. The present drawing may have been made in preparation for Dürer's own Four Books on Human Proportion, displayed nearby.

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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.