Albrecht Dürer - The Self-Mortification of Saint Benedict, about 1496

Designed by Albrecht Dürer (Nuremberg, 1471 - 1528, Nuremberg)

The Self-Mortification of Saint Benedict, about 1496

White glass with silver stain, vitreous paint, and back-painting, 22.5 x 16.3 cm (8 7/8 x 6 7/16 in.)

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Object details

Accession number

C6e13

Provenance

Probably purchased by Isabella Stewart Gardner from the dealer A. Pickert, Nuremberg for 150 marks on 9 August 1897. Alternatively, it may have been purchased by Isabella Stewart Gardner's husband, John L. Gardner, Jr. from the dealer Julius Böhler, Munich for about 360 marks on 11 August 1897.

Marks

Arms: A shield damascened sable, two prongs crossed [unidentified]

Bibliography

Gilbert Wendel Longstreet and Morris Carter. General Catalogue (Boston, 1935), p. 47 (grouped with other painted glass).
Friedrich Winkler. Die Zeichnungen Albrecht Dürers (Berlin, 1936-39), vol. 1, p. 144, no. 207.
Friedrich Winkler. Albrecht Dürer: Leben und Werk (Berlin, 1957), p. 119.
Karl Adolf Knappe. Albrecht Dürer und das Bamberger Fenster in St. Sebald in Nürnberg. Erlanger Beiträge zur Sprach- und Kunstwissenschaft, vol. 9. (Nuremberg, 1961), p. 60, n.245, 66.
Meister um Albrecht Dürer. Exh. cat. (Nuremberg: Germanisches Nationalmuseum, 1961), pp. 221-22.
Dieter Kuhrmann. Dürer und seine Zeit: Zeichnungen und Aquarelle aus den Sammlungen Bibliotheca Ambrosiana Mailand, Bayerische Staatsbibliothek, Staatliche Graphische Sammlung München. Exh. cat. (Munich: Staatliche Graphische Sammlung, 1967-68), p. 21.
Fritz Zink, ed. Die Deutschen Handzeichnungen, vol. I. Die Handzeichnungen bis zur Mitte des 16. Jahrhunderts. Kataloge des Germanischen Nationalmuseums Nürnberg (Nuremberg, 1968), p. 93.
Peter Strieder (ed.). Albrecht Dürer, 1471-1971. Exh. cat. (Nuremberg: Germanisches Nationalmuseum, 1971), p. 387.
Walter Koschatzky and Alice Strobl. Die Dürerzeichnungen der Albertina (Salzburg, 1971), p. 162.
John Rowlands. The Graphic Work of Albrecht Dürer: An Exhibition of Drawings and Prints in Commemoration of the Quincentenary of His Birth. Exh. cat. (London: British Museum, 1971), p. 12.
Kurt Pilz. Die St. Egidienkirche in Nürnberg: Ihre Geschichte und ihre Kunstwerke. Einzelarbeiten aus der Kirchengeschichte Bayerns, vol. 4 (Nuremberg, 1972), p. 106.
Walter Strauss. The Complete Drawings of Albrecht Dürer, vol. VI (New York, 1974), p. 2962.
Madeline Caviness (ed.). Medieval and Renaissance Stained Glass from New England Collections. Exh. cat. (Cambridge: Busch-Reisinger Museum, Harvard University, 1978), p. 99.
Mary-Beth Lacey. A Saint Benedict Cycle for the Monastery of Saint Egidius in Nuremberg. Masters Thesis, Tufts University, 1980.
John Rowlands. The Age of Dürer and Holbein: German Drawings, 1400-1550. Exh. cat. (London: British Museum, 1988), p. 70.
Timothy Husband and Madeline Caviness. Stained Glass before 1700 in American Collections: Silver-Stained Roundels and Unipartite Panels (Corpus Vitrearum Checklist IV). Studies in the History of Art, vol. 39 (Washington, D.C., 1991), p. 98.
Hartmut Scholz. Entwurf und Ausführung. Werkstattpraxis in der Nürnberger Glasmalerei der Dürerzeit. Corpus Vitrearum Medii Aevi Deutschland, Studien Series, vol. I (Berlin, 1991), pp. 43-44 n. 135, 45 n. 144, 193 fig. 276, 198.
John Rowlands. Drawings by German Artists and Artists from German-Speaking Regions of Europe in the Department of Prints and Drawings in the British Museum: The Fifteenth Century, and the Sixteenth Century by Artists born before 1530, Vol. I (London, 1993), p. 66, under no. 142.
Barbara Butts et al. (eds.) Painting On Light: Drawings and Stained Glass in the Age of Dürer and Holbein. Exh. cat. (Los Angeles: J. Paul Getty Museum; St. Louis: St. Louis Art Museum, 2000), pp. 102-04, cat. 16, ill.
Alan Chong et al. (eds.) Eye of the Beholder: Masterpieces from the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum (Boston, 2003), pp. 132-33, ill.
Hartmut Scholz. "Albrecht Dürer's Studies for Stained Glass." Dürer-Forschungen, vol. 2 (2009), pp. 193-226, 203 fig. 8.


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Commentary

This window depicts an episode from the life of Saint Benedict (ca. 480–547). Satan, in the form of black birds, flutters around the saint. The young saint overcame his sexual desires (represented by the woman seen at the right) by throwing himself into a thorn bush. Albrecht Dürer shows Benedict lying in a thicket, deep in prayer.

In 1496, Dürer made drawings for twelve stained glass panels narrating the life of Saint Benedict. Appropriately, they were made for the Benedictine abbey of Saint Aegidius in Nuremberg. Each design prominently displays the arms of the families who paid for the panels, which were probably made to celebrate a marriage. In the Gardner Museum’s stained glass panel, the arms are those of the Waldstromer family.

Dürer was widely celebrated for his prints and paintings, but he also designed other objects, including sculpture, metalwork, and stained glass. His brilliance as a graphic artist shows itself in the stained glass produced from his patterns. Strong and expressive figures are set into a lively landscape of variously shaped trees and rocky forms. Dürer produced clear drawings, created with parallel or crossed lines, for the inspection of patrons, and for glass painters to trace and copy onto glass. The drawing for this stained glass panel is in Darmstadt.

This stained glass panel, along with six windows from Milan Cathedral, was among the very first art objects acquired by Isabella Stewart Gardner.

Source: Alan Chong, "The Self-Mortification of Saint Benedict," in Eye of the Beholder, edited by Alan Chong et al. (Boston: ISGM and Beacon Press, 2003): 133.

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