"How much I shall desire the sun, in the cold: here I am a lord, and in my own country nothing but a parasite": thus wrote Durer during his second stay in Venice. The artist from Northern Europe was well aware of the different status enjoyed by his German colleagues, still under the control of the guilds that protected their interests but regulated their activity along with the crafts, in comparison with the Italians, more conscious of the value of their work and ready to assert it. The artist wanted to be recognized as a man of culture, a master of the rules of composition and the laws of optics, geometry and perspective. He held that his income ought not to depend on external factors such as the number of figures in a picture, the time required for its execution and the quality of the gold and blue paint that was used, but exclusively on his talent. Buoyed up by the success attained in 1498 by the publication of his Apocalypse, that same year Durer portrayed himself as a richly attired, refined and proud gentleman, of a much higher social standing than a mere craftsman, thereby celebrating both himself and the role of the artist.
This self-celebration was to reach its peak in 1500, when Durer portrayed himself in a rigidly frontal position, according to the scheme customarily adopted for the representation of Christ, reflecting his belief that the genius of the artist, his creative power, came from God. A further mystical identification of the artist and God came from the widely circulated book entitled the Imitation of Christ, which argued for the need to imitate the life of the Savior: a doctrine that, taken literally, could even lead to clients requesting artists to represent them with the cross on their shoulders
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