NEWS | Sunday, 04 November 2007

Dürer prints in Malta could fetch thousands

Teodor Reljic

While the spotlight this year has most definitely been cast on Caravaggio, Maltese art lovers shouldn’t underestimate the works by Albrecht Dürer tucked away at the Cathedral Museum in Mdina.

Christie’s, the leading UK fine art auction house, will be offering a substantial amount of Dürer prints in an auction entitled ‘The Genius of the German Renaissance: Prints by Albrecht Dürer (1471-1528)’ set to take place on December 4 in King Street, London.

The auction will include, amongst others, the ‘Life of the Virgin’ (c.1502-1510) and ‘Small Passion’ (c. 1509 - 1511) series, which the Cathedral Museum can also boast as part of it collection. They are estimated to fetch £80,000-120,000 and £30,000-40,000 respectively, reports.

Born in Nuremberg, Germany, Dürer (1471-1528) was a major figure of the Northern Renaissance who took printmaking to new heights. His most iconic images are his woodcuts of the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse (1497–1498) from the Apocalypse series, the ‘Rhinoceros’, and numerous self-portraits in oils. By taking advantage of printmaking technology, he allowed his work to gain international fame and inspired later artists such as Raphael, Titian and Parmigianino to take on the same techniques.

According to Prof. Vincenzo Borg, Chairman of the Cathedral Museum, the prints were donated to the museum during the 1700s by the Markezi family. “When the Queen visited in 1990, she had a special interest in the collection and spent a good deal of time scrutinising the pieces. She wanted to compare our collection here with hers at Windsor,” Borg said.

The exhibition was catalogued in a book by Rev John Azzopardi, then curator of the museum. Dr Dieter Kuhrmann of the graphic department in Munich was then sent to examine the prints. “The Cathedral Museum not only possesses the complete series of twenty woodcuts of ‘The Life of the Virgin’ by Albrecht Dürer, but also with the exception of three sheets it is hereby a question of so-called proof prints, that is, prints which were pulled from the wood-blocks before the book edition of the Life of the Virgin was published in 1511. Also extant, moreover, is Dürer’s so-called ‘Small Passion’, originated in 1509 - 1511, even if not so complete and good as the ‘Life of the Virgin’. Of the thirty-seven woodcuts of the series, the title-page is completely missing; six representations are on hand only in copies from the late XVI cent.; all other sheets exist, however, only in the original and in fact, with the exception of five woodcuts, are likewise early prints from the time before the book edition of 1511. In addition to some other original woodcuts and a copy after a woodcut, the Cathedral Church Museum possesses a further fifteen copperplate engravings by Albrecht Dürer, among them a specimen of ‘St Jerome in his Cell’ and nine copies after Dürer’s engravings, among others by Hieronymus and Lambert Hopfer,” Dr Kuhmann details in the preface to Rev Azzopardi’s book. He also mentions that the exhibition contains work by Dürer’s most significant pupils.

Other highlights from the Christie’s auction will include Dürer’s key works led by Death, Knight and the Devil, 1513 (£200,000-300,000) and his four main series The Apocalypse, 1496-1511 (£80,000-120,000), The Large Passion, circa 1496-1511 (£80,000-120,000). With estimates ranging from £2,000 to £300,000, the sale is expected to realise in excess of £2 million.

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