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“Salvator Mundi” by Albrecht Dürer

Salvator Mundi MET DP164819

“Salvator Mundi” by Albrecht Dürer

“Salvator Mundi” by Albrecht Dürer is an unfinished painting showing Christ as Savior of the World, who raises his right hand in blessing and his left holds a crystal orb representing the earth. Dürer began this work before he departed for Italy in 1505 and only completed the painting of the richly coloured drapery.  The unfinished picture of the face and hands show Dürer’s detailed preparatory drawings. This painting shows Dürer’s extensive and meticulous drawing skills.

Salvator Mundi, which is Latin for Saviour of the World, is a subject of many iconography paintings depicting Christ with his right hand raised in blessing and his left hand holding an orb surmounted by a cross. The “cross-bearing orb”, has been a Christian symbol of authority since the Middle Ages, used on coins, in iconography, and with a sceptre as royal regalia. The cross represents Christ’s dominion over the world, and this theme was made famous by Northern painters such as Jan van Eyck, Hans Memling, and Albrecht Dürer.

Dürer was born in Nuremberg, and his vast body of work includes engravings, prints, altarpieces, portraits and watercolours and academic books. Dürer established his reputation across Europe when he was still in his twenties due to his high-quality woodcut prints. He cultivated communications with the major Italian artists of his time, and from 1512 he was patronised by emperor Maximilian I.

Dürer’s introduced classical motifs into Northern art, and through his association with Italian artists and German humanists, he became one of the most important figures of the Northern Renaissance. His authority was supported by his theoretical treatises, which covered mathematics, perspective, and proportions. Both the Lutheran and Episcopal Churches also commemorate Dürer.

Reflections

  • What does this unfinished painting tell us about Durer’s technique?
  • The orb topped with a cross became the Christian symbol of authority in the royal regalia during medieval times. Should this royal symbol of power continue to be used in democracies?
  • Do royal portraits which show monarchs holding the orb derive from the Salvator Mundi tradition or traditions from antiquity?
  • Royal regalia and coronations that include the orb topped with a cross. Did this practice originate with Monarchs coping this art form?

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Salvator Mundi

  • Title:                  Salvator Mundi
  • Artist:               Albrecht Dürer
  • Year:                  1505
  • Type:                 Oil on linden
  • Dimensions:  22 7/8 x 18 1/2in. (58.1 x 47cm)
  • Museum:         Metropolitan Museum of Art – MET and Met Breuer

Albrecht Durer

  • Artist:            Albrecht Dürer
  • Born:              1471 – Nuremberg, Holy Roman Empire
  • Died:              1528 (aged 56) – Nuremberg, Holy Roman Empire
  • Nationality:  German
  • Movement:   High Renaissance

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“If a man devotes himself to art,
much evil is avoided that happens otherwise if one is idle.”
– Albrecht Dürer

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Photo Credit: 1) Albrecht Dürer [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

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