Albrecht Dürer: Portrait of the Artist's Mother at the Age of 63 (1514)

(Kupferstichkabinett, Berlin, Germany)

Dürer made several portraits of his parents, including this study of his mother, Barbara Holper, at the age of 63. Barbara Holper was the daughter of Hieronymus Holper. She met Albrecht Dürer the Elder (1427-1502), the father of the artist, when he worked as an  apprenticeship goldsmith with her father. Albrecht Dürer the Elder and Barbara Holper married eventually (she was 15, he was 40) and togther they got 17 children of whom only 2 survived into adulthood. This charcoal drawing was made 2 months before the death of Barbara Holper and she was already gravely ill. Albrecht wrote about her death: "This my pious Mother bore and brought up eighteen children; she often had the plague and many other severe and strange illnesses, and she suffered great poverty, scorn, contempt, mocking words, terrors, and great adversities. Yet she bore no malice. She feared Death much, but she said that to come before God she feared not. Also she died hard, and I marked that she saw something dreadful, for she asked for the holy-water, although, for a long time, she had not spoken. Immediately afterwards her eyes closed over. I saw also how Death smote her two great strokes to the heart, and how she closed mouth and eyes and departed with pain. I repeated to her the prayers. I felt so grieved for her that I cannot express it. God be merciful to her." The text in the upper right corner reads: "1514, This is Albrecht Dürer's mother when she was 63". The smaller text under it was added later by Dürer and reads: "and she passed away in the year 1514, on Tuesday before Rogation Week (May 16), about two hours before nightfall". Notice also the two highlights in the left eye of Barbara - this indicates that the drawing made made in a room with multiple light sources. Drawing from 1514.

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