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Kunsthalle Bremen acquires major copperplate engraving by Albrecht Dürer
Albrecht Dürer, Heiliger Eustachius, 1501. Kupferstich, 358 x 260 mm. Kunsthalle Bremen – Der Kunstverein in Bremen, Kupferstichkabinett / Photo: Karen Blindow.

BREMEN.- The Kunsthalle Bremen was able to acquire a work sold more than a hundred years ago by the museum. The well-preserved copperplate engraving of “Saint Eustace” (1501) by Albrecht Dürer is the artist’s largest copperplate engraving, measuring 35.8 x 26 cm, it. During his lifetime, the artist viewed it as his unsurpassed masterpiece and proof of his skills as an engraver.

The recently purchased masterpiece “Saint Eustace” by Albrecht Dürer once belonged to the collection of the Kunsthalle Bremen. The stamp of the Kunstverein in Bremen, the responsible body of the Kunsthalle, can still be found on the back of the sheet. This confirms its provenance as part of the Klugkist Collection, the Kunstverein’s oldest collection.

The inventory register of Hieronymus Klugkist (1851), one of the founders of the Kunstverein, lists two copies of “Saint Eustace”. One copy was probably sold around 1905 as one of the duplicate sales common at the time in order to raise funds for other new acquisitions. It is this work that has now returned to Bremen. The second copy listed in the inventory remained in the collection but was lost during the Second World War and has not been recovered.

The copy purchased is in excellent condition. The darkest areas are deep black and the print contains sharp contrasts full of astonishing clarity.

The engraving was purchased from a private collection with funds from an endowment by Mathilde and Fritz Müller-Arnecke through the international auction house Christie’s.

Albrecht Dürer in the Kunsthalle Bremen’s Collection
With the acquisition of this rare “Saint Eustace” print one of the German master’s greatest works returns to Bremen. Furthermore, it fills a major gap in the Kunsthalle Bremen’s collection of printed works which resulted from early sales and heavy losses incurred during the Second World War. Works by Dürer represent a prominent focus of the collection in Bremen: In addition to the almost complete printed works, the Kunsthalle possess drawings, watercolours and paintings which were exhibited in 2012 in a major monographic exhibition. As loans, these exhibits have also enriched major shows of Dürer’s work internationally.

“Saint Eustace”, the subject of the engraving by Albrecht Dürer
The engraving shows a scene from the “Legenda aurea” by Jacobus de Voragine (1228–1298). A stag with a crucifix between its antlers appeared to the Roman general Placidus (first century A.D., later Saint Eustace). Placidus subsequently had himself and his family baptized and was subjected to a series of calamities that tested his faith. In the end he died a martyr’s death under the Emperor Hadrian and is venerated as one of the Fourteen Holy Helpers. In his engraving, Dürer depicted the apparition of the stag with the Saint kneeling before the crucifix to the left and the game in the middle distance.

The unusual refinement and concentrated use of hatching creates an almost “painting-like” impression. Dürer was able to achieve a precise depiction of the quality of various surfaces such as stone, metal, fur and foliage. The richness of forms found in nature – glorification of the divine creation – ranges from the various poses of the dogs, which are based on Dürer’s independent studies of the natural world, to plants, leaves, the lake with swans, the flock of birds and the knight on the horse ascending the mountain. Each detail is depicted with great care, the composition extending in an almost ornamental pattern. The horse reflects the beginning of Dürer’s interest in the study of perspective which he continued to explore in the following years. The fortress on the mountain appears to be inspired by his watercolours of Italian landscapes. Dürer’s watercolour “Mountain Castle in the Cembra Valley” (“Felsenschloss im Cembratal”) from the collection of the Kunsthalle Bremen was a possible model for the fortress.

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