Salvator Mundi 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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Salvator Mundi by Albrecht Durer is an unfinished painting done by the artist in 1505. Salvator Mundi is a Latin phrase that means the Saviour of the World. It is speculated that the image was left unfinished after an outbreak of the plague in Nuremberg.

It is an impression of Christ as the Saviour of the world. This is a popular subject of many portrait paintings illustrating Christ. The Northern Renaissance oil on panel painting, although unfinished, is an iconic piece of work. It shows the depiction of Christ holding an orb painted crystal that represents the earth in his left hand, and on the right, he has lifted his hand in blessing. The unfinished areas are the face and hands of the painting as the artist did not paint over them, but the preparative drawings are still visible. The completed areas are the clothing of the depiction of Christ. The attire is painted in rich crimson and blue colours, while the background of the painting is green. The red and blue robe of Christ is classically used in Christian iconography as it represents the divinity of Christ by the red, and the blue colours represent his humanity.

This painting is referred to as a masterpiece, likely because of the drawing layer that is visible. The type of preparatory drawing that Durer specialised in was precise sketching which utilises crosshatching. This is a technique where the artist draws fine lines to create the illusion of texture, depth, and shadows. The quality of Durer’s skill is so precise that it looks almost perfect, and this is one of the main attractions of the painting. The effect of this on the final artwork was to create a three-dimensional quality to the Salvator Mundi. It is thought that Durer drew influence for Salvator Mundi from the earlier work by Leonardo with the same name and bears the figure of Christ carrying the orb with a cross. However, Durer's painting is created in his typical artistic style of meticulous preparatory drawings.

Albrecht Durer is the most recognised German Renaissance artist from the late 1400s to the early 1500s. He was one of the artists that popularised the subject of Christ as a saviour during that time and made the orb with a cross a recognised religious symbol. Other artists who made this theme famous are Northern artists such as Jan van Eyck and Hans Memling. The Salvatore Mundi is housed in the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York. It was bequeathed to the museum in 1931. It is displayed in the public domain and is one of the attractions under the title of Jesus Christ.