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

The Large Turf

Watercolor and gouache on paper, 41 x 32 cm
Graphische Sammlung Albertina, Vienna

Unlike the extremely sylized depictions of flowers in the Middle Ages, Dürer's Large Turf already reflects a considerable degree of empiricism: all botanical details are rendered with an almost microscopic precision, and Dürer tried to give the impression that this partial view was totally accidental by showing a chaotic arrangement of grasses, leaves and meadow flowers. The plants that have been identified are daisies, yarrow, plantains, dandelions, pimpernels and cocksfoot. Symbolic aspects are not likely to be involved here. Dürer was probably more interested in the medicinal and herbal aspects, as well as the healing powers, of different kinds of sap.

Although a careful examination reveals the different species, one is left with the effect of the whole of a section of turf, rather than the individual plants. Dürer painted another work known as The Small Turf (Graphische Sammlung Albertina, Vienna) and hence the name of the present watercolour.