Albrecht Dürer - In Venice

Towards the end of the year 1505, Dürer left for his second journey to Venice.

The reasons behind his decision to undertake the journey were both artistic and material in nature. He intended to further study the great masters, however he also went in hope of a more substantial material support from potential Italian art patrons.

It looks like Nuremberg was not very generous with his artists, who more often than not were seeking foreign patronage. As a mundane example, in order to cover the expenses of his journey, Dürer had to borrow money from his friend Pirkheimer .

He also expected to receive a commission from the Tedeschi, the Guild of German merchants in Venice, to paint the altarpiece of their church in the city, dedicated to St. Bartholomew. On the 6th of January, 1506, he confirmed to Pirkheimer that he had obtained the commission, and he finished the work on the 23rd of September. His creation was highly appreciated, and he wrote to his friend that there was "no better Madonna picture in the land, for all the painters praise it. They say that they have never seen a nobler, more beautiful picture, and so forth."

In Venice the artist also painted, in five days, "Christ among the Doctors," now in the Thyssen-Bornemisza Museum, Madrid.

The Venetian Senate offered him a pension of two hundred ducats if he would accept to stay in Venice. The Venetian painters, however, were not very pleased with the offer, and Durer himself wrote that “I have many good friends among the Italians, who warn me not to eat or drink with their painters, for many of them are my enemies,” poisoning being indeed one of those times means to eliminate rivals.

The only one who really favoured the artist’s presence in Venice was Giovanni Bellini. Dürer wrote to Pirkheimer that Bellini has praised him before nobles and that "He is very old, but still the greatest artist of them all."

While in Venice, he noted: “Then I shall go on horseback to Bologna, for the sake of my art, because some one there will teach me the secret art of perspective.” Dürer indeed went to Bologna, where he was received very well, however it is not clear whether he met those people who could provide any further knowledge of the art of perspective.

From Bologna, Dürer intended to go to Mantua, to meet and pay his respects to the great Italian master, Andrea Mantegna, now of a great age. Unfortunately, Mantegna died before Dürer had the chance to go to Mantua, a fact which, according to the artist himself, caused him “more grief than any mischance that had befallen him during his life.”

Despite writing about his stay in Venice that “Here I am a gentleman; at home, a parasite," reluctantly, Dürer decided to return to Nuremberg.

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