DÜRER, Albrecht
(b. 1471, Nürnberg, d. 1528, Nürnberg)

Portrait of Dürer's Father

Oil on panel, 48 x 40 cm
Galleria degli Uffizi, Florence

Dürer's earliest surviving oil painting, done just after he finished his apprenticeship, is a portrait of his father, the goldsmith Albrecht the Elder (1427-1502). Dated 1490, it was painted early in the year, before Dürer left Nuremberg on his journeyman travels in April. Albrecht the Elder, then probably aged 62 (or 63 if he was born at the beginning of 1427), is depicted from the waist up, wearing a black hat and brown. cape lined with black fur. He holds a rosary. Dürer later wrote that his father `lived an honourable, Christian life, was a man patient of spirit, mild and peaceable to all, and very thankful towards God'.

On the reverse of this portrait are the coats of arms of Albrecht the Elder and those of his wife Barbara Holper. The family name `Dürer' originated from the name of the birthplace of Albrecht the Elder's father, since the village of Ajtó where he came from means `door' in Hungarian and this was translated into German as `Türe' or `Düre'. The Dürer coat of arms therefore bears an emblematic, open double-door. The portrait of Albrecht the Elder may well have been the right wing of a diptych, with the other panel portraying his wife. A portrait believed to be of Barbara Holper, still in Nuremberg and attributed to Dürer, could well be the other half of the diptych, although it may be an early copy of a lost original.