Albrecht Dürer, Design for a Gothic Table Fountain

Germany, AD 1500

This large drawing is drawn in pen and brown ink with watercolour and traces of red chalk. Its scale and colouring reflect the importance of the commission. This elaborate fountain was for display at a civic banquet table in Nuremberg. The maker was probably Hans Frey, Dürer's father-in-law, who specialized in the production of elaborate and expensive silver tableware.

The use of delicate coloured washes suggests that the base and stem, designed to look like ground and a tree trunk, might have been enamelled or painted. On the base are numerous country figures: shepherds; huntsmen; peasants working and soldiers strolling or fighting. Winding up the stem are branches which burst into vine leaves and bunches of grapes around the base of the bowl. In the centre of the bowl is a delicate Gothic framework. At the top is a soldier who prominently holds up a banner attached to a spear. This might be St Longinus, the Roman soldier who pierced Christ's side at the Crucifixion. The relic of the Holy Spear was one of Nuremberg's most important relics.

On the verso (back) of the drawing are extensive instructions in German. These give information about the mechanism by which the fountain functioned. They also detail the height of the water or wine visibly spouting from the various small figures around the bowl. The spouting jets of the upper section are coloured with blue wash, so this part would have been filled with white wine or water. The jets spouting from beneath the main goblet are coloured red, for red wine.

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More information


J. Rowlands with G. Bartrum, The age of Dürer and Holbein: (London, The British Museum Press, 1988)

J. Rowlands and G. Bartrum, Drawings by German artists in, 2 vols. (London, The British Museum Press, 1993)

J.C. Hutchison, Albrecht Dürer: a biography (Princeton University Press, 1990)

E. Panofsky, Life and art of Albrecht Dürer, 4th ed. (Princeton University Press, 1955)

J. Chipps Smith, Nuremberg. A renaissance city, (Archer M. Huntington Gallery, The University of Texas at Austin, 1983)


Height: 560.000 mm
Width: 358.000 mm

Museum number

PD SL 5218-83



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