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Four Books on Human Proportion

Albrecht Dürer (1471–1528)
Four Books on Human Proportion (Hierinn sind begriffen vier Bücher von menschlicher Proportion)
Nuremberg: Agnes Dürer, 1532, 1534
Gift of John P. Morgan II in memory of Mrs. Junius S. Morgan, 1981; PML 77029.2
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Dürer produced dozens of manuscripts on the subject of proportion. Through the efforts of his wife, Agnes, and friend Willibald Pirckheimer, these treatises were published posthumously as Four Books on Human Proportion. The treatise attests to Dürer's changing attitude toward the body over time. He came to believe that artists should not strive for a single standard of beauty but instead embrace a variety of forms, writing, "If you wish to make a beautiful human figure, it is necessary that you probe the nature and proportions of many people: a head from one; a breast, arm, leg from another. . . ." In this folio, Dürer depicted figures, accompanied by a corresponding list of body parts, superimposed on a diagram using a single unit of measurement indicated by symbols.

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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.