The Triumphal Arch (1515)
by Albrecht DÜRER

The moment when through Dürer's efforts the woodcut had reached its classic height, and when the publication of his great books had made a conquest for wood engraving of the kind of art that really appealed to the people, it fell a victim to the will of a potentate, Emperor Maximilian, who had no real feeling for this democratic art, but intended to make its technical perfection serve his own ambitious purposes. The woodcut had begun as a substitute for the miniature, as a miniature for the humble, and now after a century, the man who had brought this art to its height of power and freedom was destined to occupy the subordinate position of a copyist of miniatures. The woodcut had reached the steps of the throne, and the Emperor was tempted to entrust to this democratic form of art the portrayal of personal and dynastic matters, which hitherto had been the exclusive domain of the more aristocratic miniature. Dürer took part in the big imperial enterprises.

The first discussions regarding the Triumphal Arch (Gate of Honour) took place during the Emperor's visit to Nuremberg February 4-12, 1512. Johann Stabius the historiographer and court astronomer handed over to Dürer the learned programme and the architectural plan, which had been designed in paintings on vellum by the Innsbruck court painter and architect Kölderer, while to Dürer remained the rôle of making the drawings, so that on the steps of the Triumphal Arch beside the large escutcheon of Stabius and the middle sized one of Kölderer, his own could only appear in a small size. The date 1515 at the foot of the two corner towers refers to the date at which the work was finished, and in July of this year Dürer appeals to a friend to request the Emperor to pay him and points out that "I have served His Imperial Majesty for three years, suffered loss of fortune, and had I not exerted all my industry, the beautiful work would never have been finished in such a way".

Besides Dürer's hand we also recognise that of Springinklee, whose work was more closely allied to Dürer's and is easily distinguishable from the rougher work of Traut. The two corner towers were not carried out at Nuremberg, but at Ratisbon under the direction of Altdorfer.

The cutting was carried out by Hieronymus Andreae (or Resch), of Nuremberg, as is proved by his signature on the back of the blocks at Vienna, and the work lasted from 1515 to 1517.

Suggested listening (streaming mp3, 3 minutes):
Marc-Antoine Charpentier: Marche en Rondeau


Preview Picture Data File Info Comment
Triumphal Arch (entire view)
1515-17
Woodcut, 341 x 292 cm
Germanisches Nationalmuseum, Nuremberg

1000*1167
Grayscale
187 Kb



Triumphal Arch (detail)
1515-17
Woodcut
Germanisches Nationalmuseum, Nuremberg

900*653
Grayscale
187 Kb



Triumphal Arch (detail)
1515-17
Woodcut
Germanisches Nationalmuseum, Nuremberg

650*903
Grayscale
175 Kb



Triumphal Arch (detail)
1515-17
Woodcut
Germanisches Nationalmuseum, Nuremberg

359*920
Grayscale
114 Kb



Triumphal Arch (detail)
1515-17
Woodcut
Germanisches Nationalmuseum, Nuremberg

403*1057
Grayscale
148 Kb



Triumphal Arch (detail)
1515-17
Woodcut
Germanisches Nationalmuseum, Nuremberg

400*1211
Grayscale
167 Kb



Triumphal Arch (detail)
1515-17
Woodcut
Germanisches Nationalmuseum, Nuremberg

810*665
Grayscale
137 Kb



Triumphal Arch (detail)
1515-17
Woodcut
Germanisches Nationalmuseum, Nuremberg

750*722
Grayscale
118 Kb



Triumphal Arch (detail)
1515-17
Woodcut
Germanisches Nationalmuseum, Nuremberg

700*836
Grayscale
189 Kb



Triumphal Arch (detail)
1515-17
Woodcut
Germanisches Nationalmuseum, Nuremberg

650*780
Grayscale
176 Kb



Triumphal Arch (detail)
1515-17
Woodcut
Germanisches Nationalmuseum, Nuremberg

650*780
Grayscale
174 Kb



Triumphal Arch (detail)
1515-17
Woodcut
Germanisches Nationalmuseum, Nuremberg

680*799
Grayscale
179 Kb



Triumphal Arch (detail)
1515-17
Woodcut
Germanisches Nationalmuseum, Nuremberg

883*600
Grayscale
180 Kb



Triumphal Arch (detail)
1515-17
Woodcut
Germanisches Nationalmuseum, Nuremberg

705*733
Grayscale
139 Kb




Summary of woodcuts by Albrecht Dürer
1489-1500 | 1501-10 | 1511-20| 1521-28
Apocalypse (1497-98)
The Large Passion (1497-1500)
Life of the Virgin (1511)
The Small Passion (1511)
The Triumphal Arch (1515)
graphic works | paintings