Dürer and his Image

Albrecht Dürer, The Sudarium

Dürer, Sudarium of St Veronica

Height: 100.000 mm
Width: 139.000 mm

PD E.4-98

Dürer produced at least twelve drawn and painted images of himself and in doing so introduced a new subject to art, the self-portrait. His deep interest in portraiture and the manipulation of his own image are very modern aspects of Dürer's art and personality, in striking contrast to the medieval artisan world in which the young Dürer was trained.

Given that Dürer is best known as a printmaker, it is extraordinary that he made no self-portrait in this medium. He did, however, occasionally incorporate his own image in the guise of Christ, which can be seen in his engraving of the Sudarium of St Veronica (shown here).

Dürer's self-portraits were commemorated by contemporary and later artists, such as Hans Hoffman, who copied Dürer's earliest surviving self-portrait around ninety years after it was executed. It is interesting to note that later in his life, with his eye to posterity, Dürer inscribed this drawing with an explanation of how he had produced it, an inscription which Hoffman faithfully reproduced.

Medals also payed an important role in the cultivation of Dürer's image. For example, the commemorative image of Dürer in Erhard Schön's woodcut was derived from a medal by Mathes Gebel (about 1500-74), Nuremberg's most prolific medallist of this period.