The Northern Renaissance: Dürer's Cameo Appearances

In The Adoration of the Wise Men, Dürer, assuming the role of Gaspar, is the second king (or wise man, or magician) in the center dominated by his clothes and, especially, his long blond hair

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"Adoration of the Wise Men" (1503), Photo: Wikipedia
"Adoration of the Wise Men" (1503), Photo: Wikipedia
Disclaimer: The translations are mostly done through AI translator and might not be 100% accurate.

If the development path Durer's auto-representations - in narcissistic ecstasy, in aesthetic self-realization - necessarily led to Self-portrait from 1500, where the painter can finally assume the image of the demiurge, the absolute creator, then what logic is at work after reaching the glorious idealization? How is it possible to continue the further transcription, if perfection has appeared specularly, if the project of self-realization has already risen to an impossibly high level, if the ambition has been confirmed in a dizzyingly successful way? Dürer on Self-portrait from 1500. he is 28 years old, he is literally halfway through his life (he will live exactly 28 more years), and he is at the age that, in the Middle Ages, was considered the natural peak of maturity. In the evoked parallel, Dürer's body is temporally coincident with that of Jesus, and this is another additional problem in the painter's dilemma of how to proceed after the figure and representation have merged in a paradigm that cannot be repeated, let alone overcome. Jesus' body, in the Passion, will be attacked, broken, subjected, in the unrestrained masochistic, gothic imagination of the Northern Renaissance, to terrible violence and butchery, but it forever remains a young body, both in the concreteness of the pain and in the glory of the resurrection. The painter's body, however, in the following period will be confronted with another kind of violence, but with a similar trajectory of decline and degradation.

Dürer continues to paint himself after Self-portraits from the 1500s, but the rhetorical range is significantly reduced. The obvious absurdity of the entire effort to resolve the once formed imaginary synthesis iconically (the author is aware, even through suppression or neglect, that the best is already behind him), Dürer tries to reconcile by splitting the self-portrait - in the necessary improvisation - into two halves, or split into his official and private domains. The first is promoted in (altar) paintings, in large commissions that the painter receives and in which, often from the margin, he tries to maintain the indisputability of the author's presence, and the second in intimate drawings, in dramatic moments that urgently demand to be materialized, because the painter has the need to defines its own being. In the first variant, Dürer reduces his role to a cameo level (which is undeniably an Italian influence), in the second he retains the central role, but at the cost of masochistically recording the discrepancy in relation to the already noted ideal. (Unfortunately, Dürer's self-portrait that he sent as a gift has not been preserved To Raffaello, and which, according to the testimony Vasari, was in the form of a face on transparent cambric, which means that the great painter 'handed' himself to another great painter as faith icon, visible on both sides of the canvas. If that's true, then Dürer's would Veronica's scarf was a kind of re-make Self-portraits from the 1500s: the ultimate instance of artistic design where the painter's face directly takes the place or mirrors the authentic face of Christ.)

In the first two examples of Dürer's official presentation, we already encounter an anomaly. We can only speculate whether the painter quickly abandoned the certainly intriguing idea because there was something disappointing or contradictory in it, but the fact remains that on Jabach altarpiece (1503) and To the gifted sage (1503) Dürer impersonalizes the scene, 'borrowing' his recognizable, constructed character: he is not playing himself, but someone else. In these paintings, Dürer participates as a protagonist in a fictional narrative, as an active participant in the set action. Since the central panel Jabach altarpieces has not been preserved, it is unclear what function Dürer has on the right as a drummer, and how the music was produced - here, in an unusual anticipation, the painter is the author of the Maltene soundtrack for the screened story - it works on the left where the inconsolable Jov is. U To the homage of the sages Dürer, assuming the role of Gaspar, is the second king (or sage, or magician) in the center dominated by his clothes and, especially, his long blond hair. With a view that is directed against what should be the main focus of the scene, Dürer seems to be a figure that, precisely because of the 'excess' of incorporation, disrupts the standardized thematic hierarchy, as well as the harmony in the entire composition.

Another variant of the painter's official 'disclosure' is found in his emphatic (although perspectively reduced) confirmation of the author's s(as)tav. If earlier Dürer 'entered' not only the painting, but also the action, in the four altars that contain his self-portrait he postulates himself as an observer from the side, as a specifically positioned voyeur who rather indexes the performativity of the marked scene than obsessively focuses on a potential fetishistic detail : within the configuration, the painter is never completely absorbed, but "sticks out" in the second plane, in that altered horizon. Dürer, therefore, shares the diegetic space with the heroes of the told story, but still remains at a distance, while the text he holds in his hands tautologically testifies to who is the creator of the set scene and, thus, the employed mise-en-scène: the author is also recognized through the theatricalization undertaken, through the excess of consciousness that monitors and controls the unfolding fiction.

U On the Day of Rose Garlands (1506), he is on the right, perhaps with one of his assistants, and instead of observing the densely populated foreground, to observe what is happening from the inside, he directly engages the observer who is beyond the framed spatiality. And on Ten thousand Christians were martyred (1508) Dürer is in 'discord' with the busy landscape: while everything around him is in motion, in violent turmoil, in a huge orchestration of violence, the painter, dressed according to the latest fashion, in the middle of the 'storm' is conspiratorially calm and a little brazenly indolent towards the elevated sadistic drama, again much more interested in communication with the imagined observer who needs to verify the isolated position through visual identification, and not through assumed immersion in the scene of martyrdom - after all, the author must always be in the center of attention. Since it is in a poorly preserved copy of his Haller altarpieces (1509) Dürer appears right at the 'vanishing point', almost as if, located in the depth of the picture, he is practically openly indolent towards the vision of the coronation of the Virgin watched by the assembled apostles. In that progressive, proportional reduction of his figure, which can also be taken as the author's (self)ironic comment on the established practice at that time of painting biblical characters enlarged in comparison to 'ordinary' people in the same design (most often it was about the false modesty of patrons and their family), the self-portrait becomes a kind of miniature, but also a logical dislocation, which will reach its final point in Adoration of the Trinity (1511): 'removed' from the heavenly, Dürer's figure - a metaphorical-metonymic shift to the 'real' place belonging to the signature - is located in the earthly landscape, in the lower right corner, under the spectacle, exactly where, according to convention, it should (on) stands the painter's legible signature.

In other words, in an official capacity, Dürer does not allow a break in the continuity of identity and identification, which is a ceremonial way of valorizing the power of the author's mark, regardless of the fact that the vision has expanded to include other actors or agents within the framework of representation. By insisting on the further extension of a figure that is already sublimely posed, that is perfectly 'immortalized' in transcendental stasis Self-portraits from the 1500s. by some fatal or symptomatic error in the painter's mise-en-scène, but the exact opposite, with its refinement, flawlessness, cathartic paradigmaticity. More simply, Dürer's smaller or minor self-portraits on larger altarpieces, which functioned without the need for the author to turn the mirror back on himself, were a means of avoiding the unadulterated anxiety of an already achieved idealization, because the very lack of the image of the deified author was missing. . In order to truly - or honestly - face his own reflection, Dürer had to fix his gaze precisely on - the phallic signifier. This could not be done except in an extremely personal, vulnerable intimate perspective: Naked self portrait (1503)

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