Exhibition Archive

Drawings from Renaissance Germany

21 June to 23 September 2007


Two works by Albrecht Dürer are the highlights of a display of German drawings arranged to coincide with the exhibition Temptation in Eden: Lucas Cranach’s Adam and Eve, on view until 23 September 2007.  The drawings have been selected from the Courtauld’s extensive permanent collection and form the second in a series of displays designed to complement the programme of temporary exhibitions and increase public access to this outstanding collection.

Albrecht Dürer (1471-1528) One of the Wise Virgins
Albrecht Dürer (1471-1528) One of the Wise Virgins, 1493 Pen and brown ink on paper 28.9 x 20 cm © The Samuel Courtauld Trust,  Courtauld Institute of Art Gallery, London

The Emperors Charlemagne and Sigismund was produced by Dürer in preparation for two large paintings commissioned by the town of Nuremberg in 1510, when he was at the peak of his career. The works were intended for the Heiltumskammer, a room where the Imperial Insignia of the Holy Roman Empire were kept the night before an annual ceremony of display to the people.

One of the Wise Virgins is an outstanding early work by Dürer, drawn in 1493 during his travelling years or wanderjahre. It shows a figure from the parable of the wise and foolish virgins holding a burning oil lamp.  The twisting arrangement of the figure and the fluidity of the penlines, capturing details such as the ringlets of hair and swirling wedding garland, indicate the young artist’s ambition, confidence and ability.  The reverse shows two studies of a left leg, almost certainly Dürer’s own, and provides remarkable early evidence of his scrutiny of the human body.

The display also includes an outstanding large roundel by the Bavarian Hans Rottenhammer (c.1564-1625) who created a distinctive South German style with Italianate overtones, and a drawing by Joseph Heinz (1564-1609), who worked at the Court of Emperor Rudolf II in Prague.  Rare sheets by lesser-known artists will complement the group.


Albrecht Dürer (1471-1528), Emperors Charlemagne and Sigismund
Albrecht Dürer (1471-1528) Emperors Charlemagne and Sigismund, c.1510 Pen and watercolour on paper 17.7 x 20.6 cm © The Samuel Courtauld Trust,  Courtauld Institute of Art Gallery, London