Albrecht Dürer and his era. German engraving of the late 15th-16th centuries from the collection of the Historical Museum
The exhibition introduces visitors to a collection of German prints from the 15th to 16th centuries from the collection of the State Historical Museum in Moscow, as well as jewelry, coins, furniture pieces, and engraving boards that have never been exhibited before.
At the heart of the exhibition are engravings by Albrecht Dürer and several other outstanding Renaissance masters such as Daniel and Hieronymus Hopfer, Albrecht Altdorfer, Hans Baldung Green, Jakob Bink, Hans Sebald Beham and Heinrich Aldegrever, who lived and worked in the late 15th and first half of the 16th centuries.
Germany was at that time the nucleus of the Holy Roman Empire (since 1512 the Holy Roman Empire of the German Nation), a large state formation that existed from 962 to 1806 and united the lands of Central Europe. It comprised several hundred small territories of varying degrees of independence. The emperor stood at the head of the empire, whose power was limited to the highest aristocracy, and from the end of the 15th century - the Reichstag, which represented the interests of all the major estates. By the beginning of the 16th century, many German cities were already centers of intellectual and artistic life.
Albrecht Dürer and other masters, his contemporaries, carried out personal orders from the emperor, noble landowners or merchants, as well as creating numerous works for sale. Most of the engravings in the exhibition are in this form. Before the invention of photography, prints were the most convenient way to reproduce images. Costing less than paintings or sculptures, prints were accessible to a wide range of people, and the names of their creators became known far beyond their homeland.
At the end of the 15th and beginning of the 16th century prints reached their peak and became more widespread in Germany than in other European countries. Many German artists turned to engraving, especially Dürer, who perfected its technique and gave it the status of an independent art form. A great painter and draftsman, he became famous especially for his engravings, which were incredibly technique-perfect, varied in subject and rich in content. This is best illustrated by two of his three famous "master's engravings": St. Jerome in his cell and Melancholia I, which are preserved in the museum.
Thanks to the development of printing in the second half of the fifteenth century, ideas of antique and Renaissance humanism began to penetrate into major German cities from Italy. The exhibition includes engravings on subjects from ancient myths, portraits, scenes from life, thematically close to the images of the Italian Renaissance, indicating the desire of German masters to master the artistic principles of modern Italian art. In doing so, they all remained faithful to their national tradition and retained the expressiveness and special interest in detail inherent in German culture.
The exhibition also features engravings on religious subjects. Such images, printed on small sheets of paper in multiple copies, could be bought by almost every burgher. They were not only perceived as works of art, serving as interior decoration, but also gave the owner the opportunity to privately contemplate the images of sacred history. It was the desire of the people of that time to have a direct relationship with God, to call upon Him by the power of their faith without the interference of the church. These sentiments later led to the Reformation and the spread of Protestantism.
This collection reflects the variety of engraving techniques typical of the time. It includes both woodcuts and woodcuts, as well as etchings that were rare at the time. A separate showcase displays engraving boards and tools similar to those used in Dürer's time. The range of objects is supplemented by artifacts made at the turn of the 15th-16th centuries: artistic German silver and furniture pieces. Original coins (including gold guilders), which were in circulation in Europe during Dürer's lifetime, allow us to better understand the context of the era.
The exhibition also includes a video tour of the exhibition of engravings by Albrecht Dürer from the collection of the Pinacoteca Tosio Martinengo (Brescia, Italy), held at the Historical Museum in 2021.
It is worth noting that most of the works of German graphics kept in the GIM come from the collections of famous Russian collectors and patrons of the 19th-20th centuries. - It is worth noting that most of the works of German graphic art in the collection of the State Historical Museum come from the collections of famous Russian collectors and patrons of the 19th-20th centuries.
To find such rare monuments of German art in the Historical Museum, known above all as the largest collection of Russian antiquities, is a pleasant surprise for all art lovers. We hope that acquaintance with the exhibition will not only greatly expand the existing idea of the collection of the State Historical Museum, but also will become for the audience a fascinating journey into the past of Germany, will allow to appreciate the artistic originality of art of this country, the richness of its themes, subjects and ideas, many of which have not lost their relevance so far.