Chapter 4 Images as Language: Dürer, the Triumphal Arch and the Emblem in Nürnberg

In: Emblems in the Free Imperial City
Thomas Schauerte
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Through his collaboration with Sebastian Brant (Ship of Fools, 1494) and Konrad Celtis (Philosophia, 1502), Albrecht Dürer came into contact with emblem-like word-image structures at an early stage. However, his illustrations for Willibald Pirckheimer’s translation of Horapollo’s Hieroglyphica for Emperor Maximilian I became even more important around 1514, because these constructs suddenly opened up the possibility of “speaking” with pictures. Dürer’s famous copperplate engraving Melencolia I of 1514 was based on this experience, as was Pirckheimer’s later painted program for the Nürnberg Town Hall. At its center was Maximilian’s great triumphal chariot, which for the first time worked with symbolic images and their explanations. Seen in the context of the large mural with the Calumny of Apelles and numerous panel paintings by the artist, the town hall was a veritable temple of Dürer’s fame throughout the sixteenth century. This fame was also consolidated literarily when Pirckheimer’s Opera politica appeared posthumously in 1610. It is precisely here that Michael Rötenbeck’s “Inscriptiones” from ca. 1620 evidently continues: with an imprint of Rem’s Emblemata at its center, Rötenbeck seems to have speculated on also seeing his own writings printed as opulently as those of the famous humanist Pirckheimer. This, however, was prevented by his early death.

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