Head of an apostle (1508) by Albrecht Durer

Head of an apostle - Albrecht Durer - 1508

Artwork Information

TitleHead of an apostle
ArtistAlbrecht Durer
Art MovementNorthern Renaissance
Current LocationAlbertina, Vienna, Austria
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About Head of an apostle

The artwork “Head of an Apostle” is a creation by the renowned German Renaissance artist Albrecht Durer. This piece was crafted in the year 1508, and is part of a sketch-and-study for the artwork “Heller Altarpiece”.

Albrecht Durer, born in 1471 in Nuremberg, was a masterful painter, draftsman, and printmaker, with his first significant impact being in the medium of printmaking.

The “Head of an Apostle” is intended to portray Saint James. The drawing is part of Durer’s preparatory work for a larger commission, focusing on the facial features of what appears to be a local man used by Durer for several study pieces. The artist employed white heightening techniques to emphasize areas intended to catch more light, contrasting with darker sections to create depth through shadows.

Durer’s attention to detail is evident in the depiction of the subject’s balding forehead, long unstyled beard, furrowed brow, and prominent Roman nose. Despite the focus on wrinkles, the portrait flatters the elderly man by presenting his skin as relatively smooth. Notably, Durer chose to exclude the neck and any clothing from this study, suggesting that this element was to be integrated into another painting, and he aimed to perfect the facial features before replicating them in the final work.

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