Reader, Mr Albrecht Durer,
Albrecht ... the readers.
I have previously blogged on my love of the Pre Raphaelites and how they, unwittingly, steered me into a degree in Art History, but this gentleman was my first love.
It is a self portrait by Albrecht Durer, a German artist of the Late 15th/early 16th Century probably best known for his engravings. "Melancholia I" and "The Four Horseman of the Apocalypse" and his watercolours, "Praying Hands" and "The Hare" but he was also a jeweller, a mathematician and a writer. A Catholic, but a Catholic who read and discussed Reformation works by writers such as Erasmus and Luther. Not always the best career move in those days, but he was among the great Renaissance men, who thought, researched and travelled to broaden their minds. A true polymath
Durer painted and drew self-portraits throughout his life, with one of the earliest dating from 1484 when he was a boy of 13. The picture above was painted in 1498, a handsome, confident and wealthy young man, who looks out of the picture directly into your eyes "look at me, I have arrived". his confidence, his arrogance enchanted me.
Anyway, years passed and I was in Madrid for 4 days whilst my husband was at a conference. First port of call (after a brief detour into El Corte Ingles) was The Prado, Spains National Gallery. It is packed with amazing art, the semi pornographic paintings by Titian for Phillip II, the tortured nightmares of Goya and the knowing observations of Velasquez. I was in seventh heaven wandering from room to room, then, with no warning, on the far wall of a small room in the basement was "my boy".
It was a remarkable moment and I am embarrassed to admit I burst into tears, much to the discomfiture of the custodian sitting there, who had probably imagined a quiet and uninterrupted afternoon enjoying a post prandial snooze. He muttered darkly into his lapel, requesting back up, just in case I had evil designs on his charge, his eyes flickering towards the mad woman who was by then sniffling and smearing mascara around her face. So much for the English stiff upper lip. Eventually I pulled myself together and summoning a ghastly combination of Spanish, Italian and English tried to explain what had happened. His face cleared "Senora, todas las mujeres inglesas tienen gusto de hombres extranjeros"*
The three paintings below are other gentlemen who's awareness of their own worth and strength of character shine out of the canvas, enjoy them.
* apologies to Spanish speaker I cannot promise the accuracy of my translation, and for non Spanish speakers "all English women like foreign men"