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

Portrait of Dürer's Father at 70

Oil on panel, 51 x 40 cm
National Gallery, London

The portrait is inscribed `1497 Albrecht Dürer the Elder at age 70'. Dürer's father appears considerably older than in the portrait of seven years earlier. His lips are thinner, his face more heavily lined with wrinkles and his narrow eyes have a wearier appearance. Yet Albrecht the Elder has retained his wisdom and dignity. After his death, Dürer wrote that his father `passed his life in great toil and stern, hard labour...He underwent manifold afflictions, trials and adversities.' Albrecht the Elder died five years after this portrait was painted, at the age of 75.

The condition of this painting is poor, particularly in the background and the cloak, and in the past many scholars believed that it was a copy of a lost original. However, since it was cleaned in 1955, there has been more support for the view that this is indeed the original. Fortunately the face is the part of the picture which remains in the best condition.

This portrait may originally have been displayed with Dürer's self-portrait of the following year, either hung in the same room in the family home or even linked as a diptych. Although Dürer and his father are wearing very different clothing and the backgrounds do not match, the two portraits are almost the same size and the half length poses are similar. The pictures were apparently kept together as a pair, since they were presented by the city of Nuremberg to the Earl of Arundel in 1636 as a gift for Charles I of England. Both paintings were sold in 1650 by Cromwell. The portrait of Albrecht Dürer the Elder stayed in Britain and was eventually bought by the National Gallery in 1904.