The last week I ate strawberries and I read about Albrecht Dürer (1471-1528) and …………. I returned to school to my Fine Arts degree. When I learned about engraving technique and I was copying Albrecht Dürer’s technique. Now, 29 years later, I found and I framed my old work.
I read Elizabeth Garner articles. When she found the first irrefutable embedded code in one of Dürer’s prints, she was determined unravel the mystery of what he was telling us. She believes “The Prodigal Son” is a reference to the Nuremburg City Council’s decision to expel local Jews from the town. She says each of the pigs represent specific council members. The Truth? Who doesn’t love learning about secrets?
Dürer’s 1496 engraving of The Prodigal Son (H 261 mm x W 202 mm), which depicts the man on his knees among swine, begging for forgiveness. This was not the common imagery that made money for artists. The proven motifs that sold well were scenes of the man revelling or in compromising situations. Dürer took a radical economic risk with this version before he was famous, an unusual move for a young merchant who could not yet support a workshop with apprentices. In the early part of his career, from 1495 until late 1500, Albrecht Dürer was an artist of only regional importance, whose market was primarily the south-central Bavarian German cities of Nuremberg, his birthplace, Regensberg, Augsburg, and Frankfurt. He gained widespread fame with his 1498 publication of fifteen prints based on the New Testament book of Revelations, released in two versions, with either Latin or German text printed on the reverse of the prints. This was the first time in Europe an artist himself had published his own works in the vernacular. For a Renaissance artist to effectively market a composition at the city fairs, the symbols used, known as iconography, needed to be something that the customer recognized almost instantly, because there was much competition among artists. Dürer was a merchant whose business was to make money by manufacturing and selling painted and printed images. Graphic prints were considered “product” more so than art. The skill and creativity that a print craftsman used to differentiate his product was subordinated to marketing efforts. Renaissance print craftsmen did not have the luxury of creating images that would not produce income. They either worked for commissions (typically from the church, the state, or wealthy patrons) or they made works they knew their customers would buy. The cost of materials and labour to produce prints was not inexpensive (wood for woodblocks and the labour needed to create a block, paper, copper plates, tools, ink created from handmade pigments, etc.). Production cycles were long and needed to be synchronized with city fair schedules where the prints were mostly sold (fairs occurred a few times each year for three weeks in each city). Artists didn’t stray much from proven income-producing motifs, except to add their special flair to the subject. Yet early in his career Dürer risked creating so many strange images of such apparently low commercial appeal, the economic impact of such actions demanded scrutiny.
His “AD” monogram was never forgotten. A trademark was not the only identifier Dürer put on his pictures. He left lines of commentary on the sketches, and gave the finished engravings elaborate marble tablets explaining his subject and his purpose. He wanted to tell the world that he, Albrecht Dürer of Nuremberg, had done this: that it was made, gemacht, with his genius and effort.
PS. His work with “AD” monogram are often used in interior decoration.