Dresden Altarpiece, overall view (c.1496) by Albrecht Durer

Dresden Altarpiece, overall view - Albrecht Durer - c.1496

Artwork Information

TitleDresden Altarpiece, overall view
ArtistAlbrecht Durer
Art MovementNorthern Renaissance
Current LocationGemaldegalerie Alte Meister, Dresden, Germany

About Dresden Altarpiece, overall view

The “Dresden Altarpiece” is an artwork by Albrecht Dürer, dating back to around 1496, and is located currently at the Gemäldegalerie Alte Meister in Dresden, Germany. This piece is a tempera on canvas painting belonging to the Northern Renaissance art movement and predominantly explores religious themes.

The altarpiece is a triptych, a work consisting of three painted sections hinged together that can be folded shut or displayed open. The central panel depicts the Virgin Mary seated, tenderly holding the Christ Child, while an open book rests on a ledge in front of her, with a pear beside it. She is cloaked in a dark blue garment that conveys a sense of solemnity and devotion. The left-wing presents a male saint, possibly St. Joseph or a prophet, holding a book and looking out from the scene as if contemplating or communicating with the viewer. The right-wing features St. Sebastian, commonly recognized for his martyrdom and is often depicted as a nearly nude figure bound and pierced with arrows. However, in this representation, he appears unflustered, with a serene expression, reflecting a spiritual triumph over physical suffering.

Surrounding the central figure are joyous cherubs, and an ornate crown hovers above Mary’s head, signifying her status as the Queen of Heaven. The background leads the viewer’s gaze into a serene, distant landscape, enhancing the artwork’s depth. Noteworthy features of the altarpiece include its vivid colors, detailed rendering, and the complex, emotional expressions of the figures portrayed—all hallmarks of Dürer’s style and the Northern Renaissance’s attention to emotive and realistic detail in religious subjects.

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