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

Portrait of a Young Fürleger with Her Hair Done Up

Oil on canvas, 56,5 x 42,5 cm
Staatliche Museen, Berlin

There is an inscription on the card, no longer legible; in Wenzel Hollar's engraving and in an existing copy in Leipzig, it reads: Also pin ich gestalt / In achzehe Jor altt/ 1497

This portrait, together with the Portrait of a Young Fürleger with Loose Hai, forms part of a diptych. When the portraits were still together, they passed on from Carl von Waagen to other owners, until it alone was finally acquired by the museums of Berlin in 1977. The various restorations have partially or entirely destroyed areas of the landscape and the inscription on the card at the top; the same holds true for the small statue of the prophet, inserted in the window post, which, from the side, looked toward the other portrait and in whose book Dürer had written his monogram, as Wenzel Hollar's engraving shows. At one time, the two portraits were considered to be two representations of the same person, namely, Katharina Fürleger. The series of letters on the trim of the blouse also seemed to point to this; however, they are probably the initials of a motto. Today, it is generally believed that they are portraits of two younger sisters of the Fürleger family. The portrait, along with its companion-piece, acts as part of a fairly uncommon diptych; it is the representation of the two Fürleger sisters of Nuremberg.

In contrast to the other young woman, depicted with loose hair, this one - an eighteen-year-old, according to the inscription - wears her hair in large braids wrapped around her head, a sign that she opted for marriage. Her defiant gaze is also proof of this. Similarly allude the sprigs of sea holly (Eryngium campestre) and Southernwood (Artemisia abrotanum), symbols of conjugal fidelity and eroticism, which she holds in her hand. Note that one of the portraits has a neutral background, while the other has a window with a landscape scene. One interpretation could be that one of the young women renounces the world, while the other welcomes it openly. In both figures, Dürer reveals pathologic symptoms: the young woman with the loose hair has goiter, and the two of them show signs of arthritis in their hands.

© Web Gallery of Art, created by Emil Krén and Daniel Marx.