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

Philipp Melanchthon

Engraving, 174 x 127 mm
Museum of Fine Arts, Boston

Philipp Melanchthon (1497-1560) was one of the great humanists of his age. He was the German author of the Confession of Augsburg of the Lutheran Church (1530), humanist, reformer, theologian, and educator. His original name Philipp Schwartzerd means Black Earth in German, in Greek, Melanchthon. After studying in Heidelberg and Tübingen, he taught as a professor in Wittenberg. The main emphasis of his research was on theology, philosophy and rhetoric. In 1521 Melanchthon published the Loci communes, the first systematic treatment of evangelical doctrine. Because of his academic expertise he was asked to help in founding schools, and he virtually reorganized the whole educational system of Germany, founding and reforming several of its universities. In November 1525 and May 1526 he visited Nuremberg at the invitation of the city council in order to establish the first public school.

Melanchthon is facing to the right in a striking three quarter profile. The epitaph-like Latin inscription refers to the humanist discussion Melanchthon led on the portrayability of the human character: "1526. Viventis potuit Dvreris Ora Philippi Mentem non Potuit Pingere Docta Manus" (1526. Dürer was able to draw the features of Philipp from life, but his expert hand could not capture his spirit. A.D.).

It can be pointed out that the reflection of a window in the eyes verges on the ridiculous in this case, as the indication of clouds in the background show that Melanchthon is supposed to be standing in the open air.