Dürer’s St. Dominic (1506)

On the surface this drawing by Albrecht Durer appears to be a simple portrait of Saint Dominic. Look more closely, though, and you will note not only that St. Dominic's pen is placed above Durer's monogram as though the saint himself had just drawn it but the monogram takes on the shape of the saint as well. As noted elsewhere of other signed images by Durer, the artist identifies with his subject by making his monogram echo the subject.1 Here the shape of the A with its splayed legs mimics the saint's torso with his slightly diverging arms.

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Captions for image(s) above:

Durer, Saint Dominic (1506) Brush and gray ink, gray wash, heightened with white on blue paper. Albertina, Vienna.

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In addition, though, the foot of the letter A's left leg comes alive, dangling slightly downwards like the saint's hand on the same side.

Comparing the forms in an image to the artist's signature or monogram is an important method for establishing the artist's meaning, as important for the study of Durer as of Picasso.

Captions for image(s) above:

Detail of Durer's Saint Dominic

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Notes:

1. Fehl claims that Durer, in attempting to create visual poetry, adjusted his monogram to echo certain forms in his etchings and drawings as a way to make his presence felt.  “Dürer’s Literal Presence in his Pictures: Reflections on his Signatures in the Small Woodcut Passion”, Künstler über sich in seinem Werk, ed. M. Winner (Weinheim: VCT Acta humanoria) 1992, pp. 191-244

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