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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 depicting Christ as Savior of the World. His right hand is raised in a 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 colored 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 is Latin for the Savior of the World. This theme is the subject of many iconography paintings depicting Christ. Usually 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 scepter 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.

Albrecht Durer

Dürer was born in Nuremberg, and his vast body of work includes engravings, prints, altarpieces, portraits and watercolors, 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 patronized by emperor Maximilian I.

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

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

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  • 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 copying this art form?


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


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

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