Roller Bird

7:00 AM

Durer, Roller Bird, 1512
By BLAIR HUXMAN

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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