Dürer’s Stag Beetle (1505)

This site is devoted to explaining how truly poetic art in the Western tradition is based not on copying the natural world but on a mental image based on the concept that every painter paints himself. We have now shown that nearly 300 works of art are based on this mystical idea but resistance understandably remains. How can you explain Dürer's simple drawing of the lowly stag-beetle, a skeptic might reasonably respond. Here's how.

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Dürer, Stag-beetle (1505) Getty Museum

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Dürer signed the sheet, as was his habit, with a large, prominently placed monogram, AD for Albrecht Dürer (top). He altered it, however, to add claws on the serifs of the A to mimic the stag-beetle's claws (bottom). For whatever reason Dürer saw himself as this insect just as a later poet Franz Kafka, German-speaking too, identified with a cockroach.

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Top and Bottom: Two details of Dürer's Stag-beetle

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The beetle, moreover, is drawn as though its shadow falls on the paper, its claws raised for battle. Therefore, just as Dürer's hand hovered above the paper as it tackled the drawing so, in a visual illusion, does the beetle's claws. The artist must have identified this insect's struggle against its natural enemies with his own internal struggle to create a drawing for all time.

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Captions for image(s) above:

Dürer, Stag-beetle (1505) Getty Museum

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There is more, though. The hind legs of the beetle with their bent ends resemble the uprights and lower serifs of the A in his monogram. At the same time the leg nearest his monogram - stretching towards it  - ends when combined with its shadow in the letter D. That is no coincidence. Since practitioners of all esoteric Christian traditions try to absorb the diametrically opposed features of their minds into one unified whole, an "artist" uniting with his shadow makes total sense.

Thus, once again and as expected, the draughtsman drew himself.

Captions for image(s) above:

Detail of Dürer's Stag-beetle

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Notes:

Original Publication Date on EPPH: 17 Apr 2011. © Simon Abrahams. Articles on this site are the copyright of Simon Abrahams. To use copyrighted material in print or other media for purposes beyond 'fair use', you must obtain permission from the copyright owner. Websites may link to this page without permission (please do) but may not reproduce the material on their own site without crediting Simon Abrahams and EPPH.