Albrecht Dürer

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Albrecht Dürer

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
Item description: 

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.