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Updated: 27 April 2015
print study / drawing
Design for the frontispiece woodcut of Hartmann Schedel's 'Weltchronik' (the 'Nuremberg Chronicle'); God the Father(?) sitting on a throne, wearing a head-dress resembling a papal tiara and holding an orb in his left hand, a scroll above inscribed "Dixit deus fiat et facta sunt Omnia" and below a date on either side of which are two wild men holding shields, at the top a decorative border of entwined branches and naked figures, with a column to left and r. 1490 Pen and brown ink, with watercolour and gold leaf
- Height: 386 millimetres
- Width: 246 millimetres
Inscription ContentVerso inscribed with manuscript text for folio XII recto
Inscribed, probably by a scribe rather than the artist himself, in red ink, on a scroll above God the Father, “Dixit deus fiat et facta sunt Omnia”; and below in the artist's hand in brown ink, “1490”. This is between the two shields, the fields of which were illustrated later (left, a man holding a purse and a cudgel; right, a pelican feeding her young).
Summary from J.Rowlands, 'Drawings by German Artists and Artists from German-speaking regions of Europe in the Department of Prints and Drawings at the British Museum: the Fifteenth Century, and the Sixteenth Century by Artists born before 1530', London, BM Press, 1993, no. 27:
The drawing is a detailed study for the woodcut which serves as the frontispiece to the 'Nuremberg Chronicle', the ambitious and highly successful publication produced by Anton Koberger in 1493, in both Latin and German editions. The print, executed in the same direction as the drawing, reveals some small variations, including a change in the inscription. The drawing is dated 1490 and was therefore made before the contract, dated 29 December 1491, between the authors of the illustrations, Michel Wolgemut and Wilhelm Pleydenwurff, and the commissioners of the book, Sebald Schreyer and Sebastian Kamermeister, was drawn up. This design, together with references in the contract to blocks already started, demonstrates that the project was well under way before this contract was made, and indeed other records indicate that an earlier contract was drawn up in 1487 or 1488 (see Wilson, ‘Nuremberg Chronicle’, p. 46). The fineness of the drawing, together with the important position the design was to occupy in the book, makes it reasonable to assume that Wolgemut, as the senior of the two artists, was responsible for it. Other drawings attributed to Wolgemut which show a style and technique similar to that of this drawing are in Erlangen (Universitätsbibliothek; Kuhrmann, ‘Erlangen’, pp. 47f, no. 37, repr.) and Berlin (Kupferstichkabinett, KdZ. 1027; Berlin, ‘Dürer und seine Zeit’, p. 43, no. 10, repr.).
Further drawings connected with the 'Nuremberg Chronicle' are the pen and ink sketches in the manuscript layouts (Nuremberg, Stadtbibliothek, Cent. II, 98 and 99; Wilson, ‘Nuremberg Chronicle’, pp. 55ff.) and five sheets with sketches of preliminary layouts which were used as endpapers for a two-volume bible (now removed), printed by Koberger in 1483 and presumably bound at a later date (Nuremberg, Stadtbibliothek, Solg. 68 and 69; Peter Zahn 'Neue Funde zur Enstehung der Schedeischen Weltchronik 1493', ‘Renaissance Vorträge’, Nuremberg, ii/iii, 1973, pp. 2ff., repr.; A. Wilson, ‘MD’, xiii, no. 2, 1975, pp. 115ff., pls. 1-5). The contract of 1491 states that Wolgemut and Pleydenwurff were charged with the preparation of the manuscript layouts, but these sketches appear to be made by different hands, none of which has been conclusively identified (Bellm, ‘Skizzenbuch’, p. 58f. and n. 53). The hand of the Latin text on the verso of the present sheet has been identified as that of Georg Alt (c. 1450-1510), the city council scribe of Nuremberg who transcribed part of the Latin text for the layouts and was responsible for its translation into German.'
Lit from Rowlands 1993: Dodgson, i, p. 246; Schilling, Nürnberger Handz., p. 26, no. 6, repr.; Hind, Introduction, ii, pp. 375ff; Bellm, Skizzenbuch, pp. 44-46 (for earlier literature); F. Winkler, Zeitschr.f. Kunstwiss., xv, 1961, p. 153, fig. 3; Manchester, German Art, pp. 16f., no. 23; Rowlands, Dürer, pp. 61f, no. 370, pl. xiv; Rücker, Weltchronik, pp. 60f., fig. 63; Kuhrmann, Erlangen, p. 48, under no. 37; Wilson, Nuremberg Chronicle, pp. 76-79, repr.; Nuremberg, Gothic & Renaissance, pp. 233f.; BM Dürer and Holbein, p. 57, no. 33, repr.
Additional information from G.Bartrum, Albrecht Dürer and his Legacy, exh.cat. BM, 2002, no. 23:
'This is the most important drawing by Dürer’s master to have survived and was executed the year after Dürer left Wolgemut’s workshop. Dürer would, however, have been well aware of this complex project during his apprenticeship, because many of the documents connected with its commission have survived and show that it was planned on an ambitious level over a period of many years. Wolgemut was commissioned together with his step-son Wilhelm Pleydenwurff to provide the illustrations to the text in 1487-8 and a further contract of 29 December1491 commissioned the artists - in an unusual step - to provide complete manuscripts layouts of the text and illustrations. Dürer’s experience acquired in the design of book-illustrations in Wolgemut’s workshop provide the key to his youthful productivity in this field when he visited Basel from 1492-3.'
Further literature: G. Messling in H. Dickel (ed) 'Zeichen vor Dürer: die Zeichnungen des 14. und 15. Jahrhunderts in der Universitätsbibliothek Erlangen, Petersberg, 2009, p. 181, Abb.1, under no. 64
German Roy XVc
1961, Manchester, City Art Gallery, 'German Art', no. 23
1971, BM, Dürer, no. 370 1984, BM, 'Master Drawings & Watercolours', no. 45 1988, July-Oct, BM, 'Age of Dürer & Holbein', no. 33 2002 June-Oct, Nuremberg, GNM, 'Quasi Centrum Eurapae' 2002-3, BM Dürer and his Legacy, no 23
- Associated Title: Nuremberg Chronicle
- Associated Title: Weltchronik
Thibaudeau acted as an agent for the British Museum at the Russell sale in December 1884, see 1885,0509.1574-1607. Some of the other drawings Thibaudeau purchased at the same sale were subsequently sold to the British Museum in 1885; see 1885,0509.33-51 and 1885,0711.271-303.
Prints & Drawings
Design for the frontispiece woodcut of Hartmann Schedel's 'Weltchronik' (the 'Nuremberg Chronicle'); God the Father(?) sitting on a throne, wearing a head-dress resembling a papal tiara and holding an orb in his l hand, a scroll above inscribed "Dixit deus fiat et facta sunt Omnia" and below a date on either side of which are two wild men holding shields, at the top a decorative border of entwined branches and naked figures, with a column to l and r. 1490 Pen and brown ink, with watercolour and gold leaf
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Object reference number: PDO3161
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