The Seven Deadly Sins and the Four Last Things

Bosch, The Seven Deadly Sins and the Four Last Things, 1500
By Bhux

When I view The Seven Deadly Sins and the Four Last Things in the modern day, I admire the intricate details and whimsical depictions of the seven deadly sins. I chuckle in my head at the strange scenarios, full of queer characters and awkward encounters, that Bosch created. It even looks like the woman at 4 o’clock on the panel is wearing a lampshade; I hadn’t been aware that partying was a sin. However, my lighthearted interpretation of the work contrasts immensely with how the work would have been viewed following its creation in around 1500. 

This work would have struck fear into the hearts of peasants. Bosch painted The Seven Deadly Sins and the Four Last Things on a wooden panel so the work is meant to be viewed on a table. Its ability to be viewed from any spot around the table allows for several viewers at the same time. The panel served as a warning to illiterate peasants. It plants a seed of fear into the viewers’ hearts. The work exposes their sins and guilt and scares viewers into submission. In the center is Jesus Christ glaring straight ahead, always watching and seeing all.

The inscription beneath Jesus reads Cave, cave deus videt, which translates into “Beware, beware, God is watching you.” The four panels surrounding the large middle pie depict four different points of judgement and paths that a soul can take in the afterlife. In the top left is the first step of the judgement process. The man is giving his dying testament and repenting for his sins. Following death, the soul is judged by God as seen in the top right corner. After that, it is either heaven or hell. The bottom left depicts hell and the torture sinners endure for eternity. In addition to stabbing and lashing, sinner who are greedy are being ironically boiled in gold as punishment. Finally, in the bottom right we see humans, naked in their natural form, being greeted by angels in heaven. This image serves as an incentive for viewers to live a pious life. God is always watching so the viewer must always avoid sin, or else they must endure eternal suffering. This work serves as an ominous threat to the consequences of sin, and must have left peasants scared and paranoid.
  • 7:00 AM

The Misanthrope

Pieter Bruegel the Elder,  The Misanthrope, 1562


Pieter Bruegel the Elder depicts the ethical plight of the rural peasant class in this work. The man in the black robe, the misanthrope, feeling betrayed by the short comings of society goes into mourning. Bruegel showcases this through the Dutch inscription on the bottom of the piece that says, "Because the world is perfidious, I am going into mourning." The smaller man in tattered clothing attempts to cut the misanthrope's coin purse. Bruegel teaches a valuable moral through the actions of his subjects. The peasant entrenched in a battle with his disorientated conscience ( as shown by the broken sphere around his body) is clearly in the wrong by stealing. Even though the misanthrope is a victim of wrongdoings, he symbolically becomes a barer of bad news similar to the grim reaper. 

The Netherlandish painter was greatly influenced by the work of Hieronymus Bosch. Bruegel framed his work similarly to previous works of Bosch. Like his previous paintings, Bruegel depicts rural farm life including various livestock. He illustrates barren fields with light brush strokes of many brown hues. Bruegel frames his piece in a circle in order to show that the condition of the misanthrope can be universal. One can easily be phased by the tragedies of the world around us. Bruegel urges his audience to persevere and not mourn like the misanthrope, but rather to grab the world by its purse strings like the secondary subject.
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Triptych of the Last Judgement

Hieronymus Bosch, Triptych of the Last Judgement, c. 1500

In the Northern Renaissance, Hieronymus Bosch became famous for creating innovative but also thought provoking pieces. His paintings have been praised for its details and creativity. In almost every painting by Bosh includes humans and monsters. In this unique painting, painted with oil on wood, the Triptych of the Last Judgement is depicted on biblical history and mostly good vs. evil.

The left panel shows the peaceful side of human life with clear blue sky with birds and greens. Meanwhile as it progresses to the right panel the atmosphere of the painting changes drastically. The right panel shows the fall of human kind and the punishments for those who has done wrong. The chaos of the movements in the painting show destruction and fear.
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Landscape with the Fall of Icarus

Pieter Bruegel the Elder, Landscape with the Fall of Icarus, 1560

Pieter Bruegel the Elder was a Netherlandish painter and printmaker who received a great deal of his inspiration from Bosch. He is known for his peasant and landscape scenes, such as Landscape with the Fall of Icarus and others. He was also known as Bruegel the Peasant just because he spent so much of his time with peasants getting new ideas for his future paintings. However, like this painting, there are hidden gems laying in inconspicuous places. With a man and his mule tilling farm land to a man herding sheep, to boats sailing out into the distance, one would think that this painting is just depicting peasant life. But, in the lower right corner of this painting, Icarus is drowning.

The Greek myth of Icarus begins with Daedalus, Icarus' father, who had the talent of inventing and creating amazing machines. Asked by the King, Minos, to build a labyrinth to hold a Minotaur, Daedalus built an amazing labyrinth. But, both Daedalus and Icarus were imprisoned there. To escape from this prison, Daedalus built two pairs of wings. However, before leaving, Icarus' father warned that if he flew too close to the sun that the wax holding them together would melt. Icarus flies too close to the sun and his wings fall apart and he begins to fall. Icarus plunges to his death in the sea as depicted by Bruegel in the corner. 
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The Land of Cockaigne

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Pieter Bruegel the Elder, The Land of Cockaigne1567


Cockaigne is a land of gluttony and laziness in medieval myths where the harshness of peasant life ceases and everyone lives in extreme luxe and ease. The imaginary land symbolized freedom to indulge in comfort and pleasure. Scornfully, Bruegel depicts Cockaigne in a manner which mocks humanity. Like many of his paintings which teach lessons to society, this one shows that the world is sinful, greedy, and indolent.

In Bruegel's The Land of Cockaigne, a clerk, peasant farmer, and soldier are sprawled lazily under a tree. The clerk's books and pen lie on the ground, along with the farmer's threshing tool, and the soldier's glove and spear. The tree above them lends shade through it's leaves, but even more through the table of partially eaten food attached. Not only are the men consumed by lethargy, but in their dormancy they only consume and lie around. Behind the men a form of dead fowl sits on a platter and napkin, and a pig with a knife stuck through runs around - each ready to be eaten. On the right, a man falls from a supposed cloud of pudding onto a tree branch. And on the left, another soldier awakens from his nap under a roof of pie.

Bruegel began a long line of painters in his family. With the continuation of the family trade through generations, and growing popularity of prints, Bruegel's influence has endured. Bruegel most commonly illustrated peasants in his works, earning the nickname "peasant Bruegel." Although this name hints to him being a peasant, that is a misconception. Bruegel depicts peasants in all different realms of life. Although his peasant paintings and engravings seem to be merely replications of everyday life, they also reflect his views on humanity, his absurd imagination, and his innate skill. The Land of Cockaigne differs from the other peasant paintings. Instead of portraying the difficult life of a peasant, this shows an ease for all men. The peasant farmer, soldier, and clerk lay together in peace with their respective tools out of hand. Bruegel draws similarities between the men - painting them as equals. He may be trying to convey that all men are lazy and useless, or perhaps that regardless of status, everyone needs a nap and some pie now and then. 

  • 7:00 AM

Saint Jerome in His Study

Albrecht Dürer, Saint Jerome in His Study, 1514

Dürer expertly forms a stunningly life-like vignette of Saint Jerome in his study with his dog and lion in this single-point perspective. The step at the bottom, the pillar to the left, and the ceiling on the top creates the illusion of a frame that invites the viewer into the scene as if you were standing just outside the room. The accurate viewpoint evokes a sense of believability in the etching along with the shadows and projected light from the window. Above this, though, I am most impressed by the level of detail on such a small plate; the room comes alive from items that tell us more about the world in that time period.

In a historical sense, one can gather what technology and style people would have in Dürer's time because evidence suggests that, like classic Italian Renaissance artists, Dürer drew from the real world. He believed that, "no man can ever make a beautiful image out of his private imagination unless he have replenished his mind by much painting from life" (Four Books on Human Proportions). This philosophy becomes apparent in his etchings that obviously draw from real world models because of the precise dimensions and shading.

His attention to detail is astounding. The grain of the wood, the fur of the animals, St. Jerome's beard, Dürer's signature on the floor, the slippers behind the dog, the scissors on the wall, the crucifix on the table - impeccable. Considering the constraints and nature of the medium as well as the tools he would have used, Dürer proves even more impressive. Since he used print-making as his medium, his work was easily copied and distributable which drastically opened up his audience and making him the first celebrity artist.

  • 7:00 AM

Woman of the Apocalypse and the Seven Headed Dragon

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The Woman of the Apocalypse and the Seven Headed Dragon, Albrecht Durer, 1498

The Woman of the Apocalypse and the Seven Headed Dragon is the 11th woodcut in a series called The Apocalypse.  Each woodcut illustrates a passage from the revelations of St. John, which describe the end of the world.  The Black Plague came in waves and ravaged Europe's population.  The art from that period reflected the destructive power of the disease as people became well acquainted with death.  Many people thought that the plague was a form of punishment and that the end of the world, or the Last Judgement, would occur in 1500.  The Nun by Hans Holbein shows a woman who is kneeling to pray, but is distracted by a handsome man.  Durer capitalized on the fear of death and going to Hell by vividly illustrating passages about the end of the world.  Holbein's woodcut warns against being distracted by earthly possessions and attachments and Durer's woodcut shows the result of devotion.

The Woman of the Apocalypse and the Seven Headed Dragon connects to a passage of St. John. The passage describes a "woman clothed in sun" and a vision of God right before storms and earthquakes.  The woman has a crown of 12 stars, is robed in sun, and has the moon beneath her feet.  The dragon, which could represent Hell or death, waits to devour the child she is about to bear.  Before the dragon can take the child, angels rescue it.  The woodcut warns of the potential fate of people who die (they get eaten by the dragon), but it has a hopeful message at the end.  If one lives a good and pure life, they will go to Heaven and be saved from suffering.  In order to be saved, people would have to repent and prioritize their soul above all else.

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Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse

Albrecht Dürer, Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse, 1498

Albrecht Dürer, a German artist was famous for creating elegant, and detailed artworks by using the techniques of wood engravings. More than a few works by Dürer relate mostly to Christianity and its prophecies. In Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse, the chaos and destruction show the four horsemen with an angel makes claim to bring Death, Famine, War and Conquest onto human kind. Dürer have truly showcased his skills of wood engraving but also incorporated the use of mathematics in the work. The artwork flows smoothly from angel to women lying on the ground and it not too chaos for the eyes to follow. The triangle composition of the artwork stands out clearly and it grabs the viewer's attention on the Four Horsemen. The emotions of each creature and human truly show desperation, grief and destruction, which is incredible since it was created from wood.
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Albrecht Dürer, Adam, 1507

This here is Adam. Adam was made by God from dust, and placed in the Garden of Eden with Eve. The Garden of Eden was a beautiful paradise made to perfection. Eve was made from one of Adam's ribs to be his companion. God told Adam that he could roam and eat from any tree he wanted to except for the tree of knowledge of good and evil or else he and Eve would die. One day a serpent came by and persuaded Eve that the fruit from the tree of knowledge would give her wisdom if she ate from it, and that she would know right from wrong just like God. Convinced, Eve took a piece of fruit from the fruit and took a bite and then offered it to Adam. He then ate some of the fruit, too. Unfortunately the fruit did not grant either of them wisdom they soon realized the meaning of nudity, and, embarrassed, they soon made themselves skirts out of fig leaves.

On that same day, God was taking a stroll through the Garden of Eden and Adam and Eve tried to hide in the trees because they were ashamed and afraid to face God, but God already knew about the sin they committed. Adam tried to blame Eve and Eve tried to blame the serpent, but God was rightfully mad at all of them. Their punishments were not solely for them, but for their many descendants that came after them as well. The initial punishment was that they were no longer allowed in the Garden of Eden. And thanks to Adam men would have to struggle and sweat for their existence. And for Eve women would have to endure the pain of bearing a child and managing submission to their husband. As for the serpent God punished his kind by making their only form of transportation crawling on their bellies, and also tolerating the hate of mankind. 

I enjoy the dark background of this painting. I also think that the body proportions are done very well especially compared to Dürer's, The Expulsion from Paradise, considering that it was made of Adam. Although we must take into consideration that these pieces are two different types of art, one being painting the other being a wood carving. Not to sexualize here, but the butts on Adam and Eve are pretty massive, and their calves are also muscular. I also like how Dürer incorporates Adam's story by using the said forbidden fruit to cover himself from the nudity that he initially never knew existed. In conclusion, thanks to Adam and Eve clothes have become requirement of our daily lives, and they also take as great portion of our income, which may be not be a bad thing because it fuels our economy. 
Albrecht Dürer, The Expulsion from Paradise, 1510

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Roller Bird

Durer, Roller Bird, 1512
By Bhux

From far away one could almost believe this were a real bird. Durer perfectly captures the detail and color of the dead blue roller. Despite being dead, the bird is still full of color. It looks vibrant, as if it could still be alive. It is obvious that Durer is sketching based off of an actual dead bird. It does not appear as if someone tried to describe to him an exotic creature. It makes me wonder how Durer came into the possession of such a fresh sample. I immediately ask myself, where would he get this bird? Rollers are native to warm climates, would they still naturally live in Italy? If it was imported, how could it stay so fresh without freezing? And most importantly, how did it die? After scouring every inch of the drawing, I still cannot find any cause of death. They might have shot it, but I see no entrance or exit wounds nor do I know about Italian arms during this period. It is as if the roller went to sleep and never woke up; and I highly doubt Durer woke up with a beautiful and dead blue roller on his doorstep. I love the mystery behind this illustration and it bothers me that we will never know the answers to these questions. 

In addition to the mystery of the drawing, I am also drawn to this work because of its color, technique, and detail. Durer chose a brilliantly colored bird as his subject to experiment with color and gain experience. He would not have learned to blend and flow his colors together if he had painting a grey bird found in every part of Italy. He chose a difficult subject to challenge himself and his abilities. Zooming in, the view can see the thousands of minuscule pencil strokes that make up the roller. The strokes flow and blend together which gives it the appearance of soft, delicate feathers when viewing from a normal distance. Only up close can the viewer truly understand the intricacies of the work. Durer expertly layers one color on top of another to give depth and texture to his work. It is not flat and static -- it is bold and dynamic. This test run sets the framework for Durer’s future works. His ability to showcase the technique perfectly in practice shows that he was ready to transfer the skills to a major work. Through experimentation with a colorful dead roller, Durer refined the skill to realistically portray his subjects for his future works.
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St. Sebastian at the Column vs. St. Sebastian at the Tree

Albrecht Durer, St. Sebatian at the Column, 1499
Albrecht Durer, St. Sebastian at the Tree, 1501

St. Sebastian was an early Christian  saint and martyr. During Diocletian's rule over Rome. People who practiced Christianity, like St. Sebastian, were heavily persecuted. Diocletian ordered St. Sebastian's death, so he was brought to a field and shot with arrows, only they did not kill him. Legend says that he was rescued and healed by Irene of Rome. Then, he supposedly went to Rome and confronted Diocletian, fighting for the freedom of speech and religion. Diocletian then ordered St. Sebastian to be killed for the second time, and this time it worked.

St. Sebastian is a common figure depicted in Renaissance art. Painters such as Botticelli, Perugino, Mantegna, and el Greco have captured the same scene and Dürer does above. Most often, St. Sebastian is painted in his youth. Dürer painted this scene twice, just three years apart, but he chose to paint St. Sebastian first in his youth and then as an older man.

What is the point of painting the same subject twice? Why did he chose to capture St. Sebastian at two different ages? These were the questions I asked myself when I found both of these prints. At the column, St. Sebastian is younger, and this shows because he appears more awake, petit, and calm. His hair and face also match that of a younger man. St. Sebastian at the Tree shows an older Sebastian with mature facial hair and a more built body. He also appears closer to death than the younger depiction, suggesting his youth in the legend is what saved him. Also, in the first image St. Sebastian stands upright and appears relaxed, but in the second image, Sebastian is leaning into the tree for support and his muscles appear tense. Additionally, I think that the maturing of St. Sebastian between these two prints also signifies the maturing of Dürer as a person and as an artist.

In Dürer's first image, St. Sebastian is at the column whereas at the second one he is at the tree. This is also an interesting change that Dürer made in his second print. Most other artists also place St. Sebastian at the tree, so it might be inspired by the works he saw when he visited Italy just before these etchings were made.

My favorite parts of these etchings are the tags that Dürer uses to sign his works. If you look to the left of the column, in the lower left corner and then if you search at the bottom right of the tree, there are small squares with a D for Dürer inside an A for Albrecht.

Dürer takes a subject that has been depicted in different mediums throughout time and uses his unparalleled etching abilities to create two of his own versions of St. Sebastian.
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Praying Hands

Durer, Praying Hands, 1508

It's said that the hands are the instruments of instruments. Without them the human race would not be where it is today, whether we're talking art, technology or just day-to-day tasks. Durer, the German painter, print maker and mathematician certainly wouldn't have been able to create all he did without them. Although a seemingly meaningless sketch, perhaps this was Durer's tribute to God for giving him his most essential tool.

In 2014, R&B artist Drake dropped his album if you're reading this it's too late. For the cover art, he manipulated Durer's Praying Hands into a thick lined in full black and white contrast. While many listeners are unaware of the influence, Drake's silent tribute to the master Renaissance painter has become a pop culture icon. Although the two artists practice in different mediums, they have both consumed the industry.
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Self-Portrait Nude

Durer, Self-Portrait Nude, 1471-1528

In the first full-length nude self-study, Durer portrays himself in only a hairnet or cap. There are two focus points in his nude drawing:  Durer's face and his, ah-hem, genitals capture the gaze. His muscles bulge as his gaze travels beyond the painting, a simple background giving greater attention to the whorls of lines and shadows covering his body.

What's perhaps rather ironic about his portrayal of himself is that Durer was sick in 1503, when he was creating this peace, and yet drew himself as a powerful and bold younger man. Only his face, eyes slightly sunken in and cheeks hollowed, give away any hints of sickness. Of course, Durer's obsession with drawing himself as slightly better than ideal came from even before the Self-Portrait Nude. His body and pose in Self-Portrait Nude is reminiscent of Apollo from Durer's earlier work, Apollo and Diana. In addition to this idea of being one of the gods, the practice of imitatio Christi was already popular in Europe, where artists changed their own features to take on the features of Christ.

In previous works, Durer had changed the color of his hair, the shape of his face, and placed his arms in the symbol of blessing, all to mimic Christ and bring holiness and a sense of immortality to his works and himself. The pride behind using imitation Christ fills all of Durer's works, from Adam and Eve (The Fall of Man), where Durer inserted his cartellino into the painting, to Self-Portrait, where Durer shows himself practically as Christ. His hair is darkened, and split into the style of Jesus Christ, and he wears luxurious furs. To bring all of this together in reference to his Self-Portrait Nude, I believe that rather than focusing on correct proportions, Durer gave into his ego when creating this carving. Durer drew what he knew, or thought, rather than what he saw in the mirror. 
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Adoration of the Holy Trinity

Albrecht Durer, Adoration of the Holy Trinity (Landauer Altarpiece), 1511


Behold the majesty of one of Durer's later and greater works. Painted in 1511, begun shortly after his return from an extended trip to Italy to study the works of the great southern masters, was completed over the course of arguable his four best years as an artist. Durer painted this work as an altarpiece to go in the chapel of the "House of 12 Brothers," a retirement home for aging artists donated by Nuremberg metal trader Matthaus Landauer. Due to the nature of this commission, he would have had to be particularly sure of his skill in this work to be presenting it to his most experienced peers. As he originally studied wooden engraving, he also carved the frame it originally existed in, though the two have been separated for quite a while now. The one it resides in now is an exact replica, but a replica nonetheless.

The frame itself depicts the last judgement in stunning, meticulous detail, in carved and painted wood. As in the painting itself, the focus of the frame is a trinity. In this case, the Christ figure atop a globe with the kneeling Virgin on his left and kneeling John the Baptist on the right. Their presence is announced by two cherubs on either side. The climbing vines that encircle the painting itself reflect a gorgeous delicacy and care that bleeds into the painting itself. 

Originally in my selection, I chose this painting due to its color. What with centuries of fading, it may not be as brilliant as I can imagine it once to be, but in looking at the juxtaposition even in this particular rendering, it's clear that as magnificent as the color is, it would have been even more so when first painted. In this particular work, the contrast between the gold and dark green of the tapestry behind Christ and the crisp white of the clouds that surround him especially help to emphasize him. The vibrancy of Durer's reds, golds, greens, and pastel blues cannot be understated, although the bulk of his works are black and white engravings. This work in particular seems to glow. 

The geometry in this work is particularly evident. First, the painting is divided in half vertically (through the line of Jesus's body on the cross, the figure of God, down through the split of the congregation below) and horizontally (splitting the realm of heaven from earth). In the heavenly half, Jesus embodies the trinity in the clear triangle that frames him on the cross, splitting the crowd of saints in two. In addition, much of this painting flows out in concentric hemispheres around the central dove above the head of the Lord. The first ring is that of holy golden light, followed by creatures with the bodies of doves and the faces of cherubs, then by the angels holding up the cross of Christ, then the clouds around the christ figure, and finally by those adoring his holiness.

The upper right congregation is that of the male Old Testament saints, most notably and visibly Moses and King David. To the left are the female New Testament saints carrying palm ferns lead by the Virgin Mary, clad in blue as always, looking to her son in absolute devotion. The bottom grouping are the earthly Christians. Front and center, the pope is clearly emphasized, clad in gold, body turned upwards in worship. To the left of this lower group, the older man being embraced by the bishop is that of the patron, Mr. Landauer. The remainder of this group are other notable figures like the emperor alongside ordinary religious men and women, suggesting the inclusion of the audience into this portion. 

Below this is a short landscape of which he was particularly fond of painting in his earlier years as well as my favorite of his self portraits. Rather than simply signing this work, Durer placed a likeness of himself in a red turban next to a plaque announcing his name and the date. He appears to be showing off, quite proud of what he's just painted. And in this case, he should be. This painting effectively through work of the brush, unites heaven with earth visually and in the emotional response. When observing this masterpiece, one has never been closer to the realm of God.

  • 7:00 AM

An Young And Old Woman From Bergen

Dürer, An Young and Old Woman From Bergen, 1520
By MEGAN GANNON By now we kind of have a grasp on the Renaissance. We’ve examined Giotto, read our Baxandall, and admired Raphael so what comes next? Well, we have the Northern Renaissance a slightly less admired and beautiful movement but worthy of our time nonetheless. 

And don’t worry the North has own their share of the self-absorbed artists. In particular they have Albrecht Dürer, who when he painted his self-portrait compared his likeness to that of Christ...more than once.

The Northern Renaissance in many ways parallels that of Italy’s with the study of human proportion, geometry, perspective, and Greek and Roman influences. Although unlike in Italy between 1520 and the mid - 17th century the North fell victim to iconoclasm. This hatred of imagery led to the destruction of countless works of art and essential documents to the study of the works.

Often times on this blog we speak of color and composition and not the deeds that guarantee Botticelli did in fact paint Venus and Mars. Although it seems silly to belittle the importance of these documents. For instance according to Susy Nash in her article "Dispersal and Destruction," despite archives confirming 300 artists in Cologne between 1300-1500 none of the works discovered correlate to any of the artists (21).

Despite inadequate documentation, Northern Renaissance art still flourishes. Especially with pieces like An Young And Old Woman From Bergen, not the most glamorous name but Dürer imagery captures something often forgotten in Italy - aging.

Dürer’s juxtaposition of a young and old women references Ars Moriendi or the Art of Dying. The younger woman with her downcast eyes seems to be avoiding death while the older with her defiant gaze confronts death. The non-existent wrinkles on the young woman’s face hint at her inexperience, the life she has yet to live. While her counterpart with heavy lines around her eyes and mouth captures years of tears, smiles, frowns, and laughs that make up a long life.

I am completely captivated by this sketch. Perhaps because as a young woman it presents the future. I may lack the headscarf, but one day my nose will have lengthened and the lines in my face will run deep. Dürer celebrates this process by demonstrating that the older woman is just as beautiful as the younger one.

Often times we view age as the end of the road. We frantically search for the fountain of youth in anti-aging creams and powders. We ponder the benefits of starting a life anew. As Dürer puts it that it solely fantasy. For we have one life, one face, and with that face the lines, the scars, do not act as detractory factor, but as symbol of life.

To live a life in the preservation in beauty is not to live at all. Just ask Mrs. Dalloway.

  • 7:00 AM

Young Hare

Albrecht Dürer, Young Hare, 1502

Albrecht Dürer was a German artist famous for his artwork and engravings. His ability to engrave, woodcut, and paint stemmed from years of apprenticeship and study. Young Hare, painted in 1502, exemplifies all his skills as an artist but also a mathematician. His knowledge of math and proportions helped create this unbelievably accurate depiction. Some argue he used a live model while others contest he created numerous drawings based on observations in the woods.

Regardless, Dürer beautifully brings this hare to life using a light source to illuminate the subject. The shadow the hare casts allows its outline to be more prominent. Dürer also masterfully depicted the hare's fur. The realistic flow of the fur seems nearly impossible given he did it with watercolor and gauche. At first glance this painting seems ordinary, but once you analyze the sheer precession and detail, its possible to say Young Hair seems photographic because of its near perfection
  • 7:00 AM

The Cook and His Wife

Albrecht Dürer, The Cook and His Wife, 1496

Albrecht Dürer was a German painter and printmaker. Best known for his engravings and woodcuts, he created portraits, altarpieces, and self-portraits with his talent. Dürer is one of the most important figures in the Norther Renaissance because he applied mathematics and ideal proportions into his works. In The Cook and His Wife, Dürer etches an overweight cook and disgusted wife onto paper. The cook on the left of the etch looks as though he could eat the bird on his left shoulder at any moment and it appears that another deep breath would pop his last button on his shirt. His wife, walking alongside him, wraps a shawl around herself, almost seeming as though she has gotten away with a dirty trick. Fortunately for us, there is a more compelling story that goes along with this etching.

For many years, this engraving was thought to have been just anther depiction of what life was like for peasants during in the fifteenth century. However, this print is from an episode in a book that became popular at the end of the fifteenth century. The Night of the Tower illustrates a man (the cook) who owns an eel. This man hopes that he will be able to cook this eel for a meal later on. One day, when the man was gone, his wife decided to eat the man's eel, and when the man came back home, she told him that the eel had been stolen by an otter. Unfortunately, this couple owned a talking magpie (a crow) who told the man the truth about what had happened to the eel. To punish the magpie for telling on her, she plucked all the feathers from his head and whenever the magpie saw a bald man from then on, he would ask, "so you've been talking about the eel too!"
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Feast of the Rose Garlands

Albrecht Durer, Feast of the Rose Garlands, 1506


Dürer's oil painting, Feast of the Rose Garlands transitioned northern European art from the medieval style to the northern Renaissance. This painting was originally commissioned by a German community in Venice near the Town of Fondaco de Tedeschi to be placed in the church of San Bartolomeo. This work remained in Fondaco de Tedeschi until 1606, when the piece was sold to Emperor Rudolph II in Prague. After multiple restorations and transferences to various collectors the work found its way to Czechoslovakia in the 1930s.

Dürer used stylistic elements of both the northern Europeans and the Italians. Although his figures lack depth like his northern European predecessors, he mixes multiple hues to produce a realistic skin tone like his Italian contemporaries. He attempts perspective in the background, while portraying the beauty of northern European mountains at this time period.

Dürer illustrates the story of the "Brotherhood of the Rosary" in this work. He places the Virgin Mary and Christ in the center. He blends the Italian and the German cultures symbolically by setting Pope Sixtus IV on the right of Mary and the designated German emperor Maximilian I with his imperial crown beside him on the right. Dürer shows Mary placing a garland of roses on the head of Maximilian I, hence giving him divine blessing in his future endeavors. Dürer portrays a seemingly unbalanced dichotomy throughout this work by having mountains and differing styles of dress on one side but not the other. In conclusion, Dürer depicts two opposite worlds of northern and southern Europe which are united in harmony (illustrated by the angel with the lute) around Christianity.
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Self Portrait at the Age of Twenty Eight

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Albrecht Durer, Self Portrait at the Age of Twenty Eight, 1500 

Albrecht Durer's Self  Portrait at the Age of Twenty Eight outwardly highlights his arrogant self-confidence. Durer earned his favorable reputation as an artist in his early twenties. Durer became one of the most influential artists of the Northern Renaissance. His revolutionary woodcuts became his most noteworthy medium, followed by prints, altarpieces, portraits, watercolours and books.  Judging by the portrayal of himself as Christ in his Self Portrait in 1500, perhaps the early prodigious reviews boosted his morale to a slight extreme.

Durer inscribed his initials "AD" into the left hand side of the portrait, along with text reading "I, Albrecht Durer of Nurembourg, painted myself thus, with undying colours, at the age of twenty-eight years." In this he outwardly states his belief in his own immortality, whether that be in a physical presence or permanent fame. He also played with his orientation in order to emphasize a similar ideal. In most self-portraits during the time period artists positioned themselves in a three-quarters view, but Durer faces directly forward, and zooms in on his image. He also eliminates a background, stressing his self importance.

Durer fashions his body as a triangle, playing with the presence of the trinity within himself. He believed that at the age of twenty-eight he was at a prime. The portrait testifies to this by his supreme artistic expertise. His right hand raises slightly, toying with his seemingly expensive, powerfully red, fur coat. In Becoming a Knowledgeable Artist the author states that "The hand is the instrument with which the right-handed Durer created his art. The artist shows off his long, graceful fingers". In his hand, we see realistic bones and veins. Joachim Camerarius, a German physician and humanist scholar, described Durer saying "Nature gave him a build and a bodily development that, as is right and proper, fit supremely well with the magnificent spirit it encloses...He has an expressive head, glittering eyes, an attractive nose, which the Greeks would call perfect, a somewhat long neck, a broad chest, a taut body, powerful thighs, firm legs; but a finer thing than his fingers have ever seen". Everything about this painting screams self obsessed. Although accounts such as Joachim's suggest his deserving of such praise, his haughty advertisement of his perfection within his paintings is less than admirable.
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Paintings to Orpheus

Edgar Degas, L'Etoile, 1878

Sonnet 28

Translated by EDWARD SNOW

O come and go. You, still almost a child,
with your spell transform for an instant
the dance figure, make it one of those pure
constellations in which we fleetingly
transcend dull ordering Nature. For she was roused
to full hearing only when Orpheus sang.

You were still swayed by those ancient chords
and a bit annoyed if a tree took stock
before it followed where your hearing led.
You still knew the place where the lyre
rose resounding--; the undreamt-of center.

For it you practiced those beautiful steps
and hoped one day to turn toward
total happiness your friend's face and stride.

Editor's Note: Students were asked to pair a poem and painting with no explanation of the connection. 

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Napoleon Crossing the Alps

Jacques Loius David, Napoleon Crossing the Alps, 1801


I met a traveller from an antique land, 
Who said—“Two vast and trunkless legs of stone 
Stand in the desert. . . . Near them, on the sand, 
Half sunk a shattered visage lies, whose frown, 
And wrinkled lip, and sneer of cold command, 
Tell that its sculptor well those passions read 
Which yet survive, stamped on these lifeless things, 
The hand that mocked them, and the heart that fed; 
And on the pedestal, these words appear: 
My name is Ozymandias, King of Kings; 
Look on my Works, ye Mighty, and despair! 
Nothing beside remains. Round the decay 
Of that colossal Wreck, boundless and bare 
The lone and level sands stretch far away.”

Editor's Note: Students were asked to pair a poem and painting with no explanation of the connection. 
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Portrait of François Boucher

Gustaf Lundberg, Portrait of François Boucher, 1741

It's such a 
Being always

Editor's Note: Students were asked to pair a poem and painting with no explanation of the connection. 

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Mrs. Waldorf Astor

John Singer Sargent, Mrs. Waldorf Astor, 1909

"Let No Charitable Hope"

Now let no charitable hope 
Confuse my mind with images 
Of eagle and of antelope: 
I am in nature none of these. 

I was, being human, born alone;
I am, being woman, hard beset;
I live by squeezing from a stone
The little nourishment I get.

In masks outrageous and austere
The years go by in single file;
But none has merited my fear,
And none has quite escaped my smile.

Editor's Note: Students were asked to pair a poem and a painting with no explanation as to the connection between the two. 
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Georgina Ciotti, Unknown, 2000s
by Phillip Larkin

The difficult part of love
Is being selfish enough,
Is having the blind persistence
To upset an existence
Just for you own sake.
What cheek it must take.

And then the unselfish side -
How can you be satisfied, 
Putting someone else first
So that you come off worst?
My life is for me.
As well ignore gravity.

Still, vicious or virtuous,
Love suits most of us. 
Only the bleeder found
Selfish this wrong way round
Is ever wholly rebuffed, 
And he can get stuffed.

Editor's Note: Students were asked to pair a poem and painting with no explanation of the connection. 
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