Portrait of Johannes Kleberger Albrecht Durer Buy Art Prints Now
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Tom Gurney BSc (Hons) is an art history expert with over 20 years experience
Published on June 19, 2020 / Updated on October 14, 2023
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The year of 1526 for Albrecht Durer included work on a series of portraits which were intended to be lined up together within a town hall display. Each one was of leading political or commercial figures in the region of Nuremburg, which was also the artist's hometown.

The most obvious difference between this portrait of Johannes Kleberger and two others from around the same period of Hieronymus Holzschuher and Jakob Muffel is in how Durer completed the frame around the artwork itself. In this case, we find the portrait reduced to a circular format, with lettering carefully curved around the edges. Around it is a grey coloured background with heraldry relevant to the period and location. Research has suggested that the reason for this alternative format may have been from the influence of French art, to which the subject was very familiar. He may therefore have requested Durer to work in this way, as there are no other examples from his career of quite the same approach. Essentially, there is a faux frame painted in by Durer, with an attempt to give the impression of sculptured elements which are actually delivered entirely in oil. This sort of technique was most famous used by Jan van Eyck who worked in that manner many times within his relatively small oeuvre. The larger image of the painting below will help you to understand quite how he went about painting light, shadow and depth in directly.

The round nature of this artwork, as well as the use of sculptured effects which help to give the impression of a textured surface, produce something akin to a coin design. During this period of German history, coin design was another avenue of expression and commercial activity. Johannes Kleberger himself was a successful merchant who dealt with several different parts of Germany, as well as Bern and Lyon. He did not live in Nuremburg himself, but whilst visiting decided to seek out Durer and request a small portrait. Generally speaking, the artist would create several drawings of the subject before then completing the painting at a later date. The subject found here would then return to Lyon and eventually became one of the ten richest individuals within the city, though he willing gave some away in order to help the region cope with a series of damaging events such as the plague outbreak. His generosity was later rewarded with a monument in the city which celebrated his continual contributions to the region's poor.

This panel painting from 1526 can now be found in the collection of the Kunsthistorisches Museum in Vienna, Austria. They have a particularly impressive selection of paintings from Pieter Bruegel here, including the likes of The Hunters in the Snow, The Tower of Babel and Children's Games. There are also many other notable artists from the Italian and Northern Renaissance, with a focus on the 14th to 17th centuries. Spanish artists such as Diego Velazquez are also included within an impressively diverse and high level collection which competes favourably with anything in the world. Viennna itself remains an important cultural city that offers a good number of major art galleries and museums which would keep us busy for a good week at least, even before we check out some of the other things to do in this beautiful and historic place.

Portrait of Johannes Kleberger in Detail Albrecht Durer