Sylvan Men with Heraldic Shields (1499) by Albrecht Durer

Sylvan Men with Heraldic Shields - Albrecht Durer - 1499

Artwork Information

TitleSylvan Men with Heraldic Shields
ArtistAlbrecht Durer
Art MovementNorthern Renaissance
Current LocationAlte Pinakothek, Munich, Germany

About Sylvan Men with Heraldic Shields

“Sylvan Men with Heraldic Shields” is a genre painting by Albrecht Dürer, created in 1499. This Northern Renaissance artwork is executed in oil on panel and is located at the Alte Pinakothek in Munich, Germany. The piece reflects the emblematic and allegorical interests of the period, merging detailed figuration with symbolic elements.

The painting is divided into two panels, featuring wild men or “wodewoses,” who are mythical figures from medieval and Renaissance lore, often associated with unruly natural forces and the untamed wilderness. On the left panel, one sylvan man is depicted in a dynamic pose, holding a heraldic shield bearing a black anchor on a white background. He is looking up as if gazing intently to something out of the frame, characterized by an abundance of leafy foliage that adds to his wild appearance. On the right panel, another wild man is shown standing, holding a large staff and a heraldic shield split into two halves, one white and one red, adorned with intricate patterns and symbols.

The entire composition is rich with symbols and details that invite contemplation about the characters’ significance, particularly pertaining to the heraldic shields they bear. The wild men themselves, covered in dense hair and barely clothed, are rendered with great attention to anatomical detail and life-like qualities, showcasing Dürer’s masterful technique and his fascination with both human form and mythical imagery. The background for both figures appears to be a forest, aligning with the wild men’s connection to nature and the wilderness.

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