Germany, a miniature by Albrecht Dürer discovered in the Oldenburg Library

A rare miniature of Albrecht Dürer was discovered in the Oldenburg Library in Germany. It is part of a series of miniatures by the great German artist, of which only six copies were known so far.

Important discovery in Germanyin Landesbibliothek from Oldenburgwhere one was found thumbnail from Albrecht Dürer (Nuremberg, 1471 – 1528). It is a picture depicting two cherubs of dolphin-like sea creatures, with a coat of arms in the center. The miniature is almost 16 cm wide and 6.5 cm high, and according to the Landesbibliothek of Oldenburg, it is “an extraordinary discovery” and “spectacular”.

The miniature decorates the first page of a Greek text printed in Venice in 1502 by Aldus Manutius (Bassiano, 1449 – Venice, 1515) and was discovered as part of a research project on the Aldine collection in the Oldenburg Library. The book probably belonged to the famous humanist Willibald Pirckheimer (Eichstätt, 1470 – Nuremberg, 1530), identifiable on the basis of the coat of arms. In addition, the Oldenburg volume was successfully identified as one of 14 valuable books that Pirckheimer’s heirs sold to a Dutch collector in 1634. The price was high because all of these books contained an autographed miniature by Albrecht Dürer on the title page. Only six have been identified so far. The Oldenburg miniature is described exactly in the historical source from 1634 and is therefore undoubtedly, they explain from the library, the seventh miniature of Dürer in this series to be rediscovered. The discovery is signed by four researchers: Sven Behnke, Matthias Bley, Matthias Bollmeyer and Detlef Haberland. Dürer’s miniature and other research results were presented on 21 June by the Minister of Science in Lower Saxony, Björn Thümler, and by the project leader, Professor Detlef Haberland. The book with Dürer’s miniature can be seen on display in the Landesbibliothek in Oldenburg until 16 July.

“The startling discovery of Dürer’s miniature in the Landesbibliothek in Oldenburg,” says Thümler, “shows that we in Lower Saxony have extraordinary, first-class collections and shows what unknown treasures sleep in our libraries. Here there is still great potential, for example. for research collaboration between libraries and universities.With the program Pro * Lower Saxony – Cultural heritage – Collections and artefacts, the state specifically promotes research into the cultural treasures of Lower Saxony. The Aldine project clearly shows that we are on the right track with the research program and provides new impetus to develop and research our cultural heritage in Lower Saxony and make it accessible to the public ”.

As part of the project Pro * Lower Saxonyall 263 aldines from Oldenburg State Library have been systematically indexed and scientifically described for the first time since October 2020. Most of them come from the Hanover officer’s book collection Georg Friedrich Brandes (1719 – 1791), which Duke Peter I bought for Oldenburg in 1790. “Aldus Manutius was highly educated and his publishing house combined humanistic culture and innovation with excellence in craftsmanship and aesthetics,” he explains Professor Haberland. “For this reason his printing was already much appreciated by contemporaries with scientific and bibliophile interests. When Pirckheimer devoted himself to the translation of numerous Greek texts into Latin between 1502 and 1505, he probably also purchased the Greek volumes from Aldus Manutius’ book printers in this one. period”.

The miniature may not have been painted in the book until after 1504, the year of Pirckheimer’s wife’s death, because her coat of arms is missing there. It is very likely that Dürer actually made the miniature himself because of his personal friendship with Pirckheimer. However, a comparative historical-artistic study has not yet been made, as Sven Behnke and Matthias Bollmeyer point out.

The fate of the Oldenburg aldina, after it was sold by the Pirckheimer heirs in 1634, has not yet been fully investigated. In the middle of the 18th century, according to research conducted by Matthias Bley in the library of Hieronymus de Wilhem, a priest from a very wealthy merchant family in Amsterdam, he ordered a red Moroccan leather binding with gold embossing, made in Leiden Bindery between 1747 and 1752. In In 1769, Georg Friedrich Brandes bought the volume at a large book auction in The Hague. After his death in 1791, the book arrived in Oldenburg together with his entire library and became part of the Ducal Public Library, which opened in 1792, the present-day Landesbibliothek. So until 2021, the book was forgotten. But even before the middle of the 18th century, the knowledge of Albrecht Dürer as a miniature artist and his collaboration with Willibald Pirckheimer had been lost. Now some of this knowledge has finally been regained.

Germany, a miniature by Albrecht Dürer discovered in the Oldenburg Library

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