The MFA has put together an awesome exhibit of Albrecht Durer's work. Featured are about 50 pieces selected from the Museum's large collection. They are representative of this Renaissance master's skills in a variety of printmaking (engravings, woodcuts, drypoint) techniques.
Clifford Ackley (MFA's Curator of Prints and Drawings) and Helen Burnham (assistant curator of Prints and Drawings) gave us a fascinating view into the various pieces selected for the Durer exhibit. There were WAY too many interesting works to discuss in any in detail here, but we'll mention some of the many interesting things learned on the tour that struck a cord.
The first was the engraving Saint Jerome in his Study (1514). According to the curator, this work is probably one of Durer's best-known engravings. It was interesting both because of the strong perspective used to direct the viewer to the saint and the amazingly delicate treatment of the light and shadows in the room. Note the details in the shadow of the leg of the chair in this close-up.
The next were the two prints of The Prodigal Son amid the Swine (1496, 1525) done twenty years apart. It was interesting to see the difference in quality from the repeated printing. The earlier print was darker because Durer often chose not to remove the "burr" or metal shaving at the edges of the engraved lines. These bits caught and retained extra ink, leading to a stronger print. The burr would wear away over time. Some would say that resulted in a "weaker" image, but we thought it actually revealed additional details overshadowed by the additional ink in the earlier printing. Regardless, it was amazing that the MFA had two copies so visitors could see them side-by-side!
The last was an engraving called Melencolia I (1514). While this piece is already well-known to many in the art world, the recent release of Dan Brown's novel The Lost Symbol will expand its recognition even wider. In the book, many of the items depicted in the engraving were given special Masonic significance by the author. One item specifically mentioned was the magic square. The one depicted in the engraving was especially clever. Not only did the numbers sum to 34 in the columns, rows, and diagonals, they also added up to 34 in the quadrants. Durer even managed to work in the date (1514) of the work into the last row of the square. 16th century recreational math...geeks were cool even back then!
The Albrecht Durer: Virtuoso Printemaker exhibit opened on November 21st and will run until July 3rd, 2010. Durer's works require close inspection for full appeciation, so here is a RainyDay tip...bring a magnifying glass! You will be amazed at what you will discover at the MFA. [Permalink] -Albrecht Durer: Virtuoso Printmaker