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

Wing of a Roller

Watercolour and gouache on vellum, 20 x 20 cm
Graphische Sammlung Albertina, Vienna

The rendering of the spectacular, shimmering colours is astonishing. The bird is the roller, which is found in southern and central Europe, and Dürer has represented the upper side of the left wing, probably actual size. The fine detail of the painting makes it possible to see how the shorter feathers overlap the longer ones, how, as they approach the bone, the green feathers become more numerous and downy, and how the brown feathers near the breast hang down in tufts.

Although the 1512 date on the watercolour is probably correct, it is possible that it may have been done earlier. Dürer depicted bird wings in his engravings of Nemesis in around 1502 and Coat of Arms of Death in 1503. He was always intrigued by exotic birds and in 1506 he brought back feathers from Venice for Pirckheimer.

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