Albrecht Dürer's Wanderjahre

Albrecht Dürer did not mention anywhere what he did during the four years of his Wanderjahre. He just mentioned the year when he left, 1490, and the year of his return to Nuremberg, 1494, fact which led to many assumptions regarding his possible itinerary.

Probably Albrecht Dürer first went to Basel and Strassburg to study, then to Augsburg. To support this hypothesis, there is a painting of Basel, signed with his monogram, and dated 1491. However, the authenticity of this painting is in doubt.

It is for sure that in 1492 he was in Colmar where he went in hope of working in the workshop of master engraver Martin Schongauer. Unfortunately, Schongauer died before his arrival, and it seems that Dürer worked for some time in the workshop with Martin’s brother, Ludwig, who was now the leader of the Colmar School.

He was very well received by all three Schongauer brothers, who did their best to make his stay there as pleasant and useful as possible. As a souvenir, they offered him a copy of one of their master’s pencil drawings, the “Presentation in the Temple”.

In 1493 Dürer went to Strassburg, and it looks like towards the end of his four years journey, he even established a residence in the city. To support this, two portraits exist, dated 1494, and representing the artist’s “Meister und Meisterin in Strassburg”, however the persons represented by the portraits remain unknown.

During this time, the artist’s father and Hans Frey, a highly ranking Nuremberg citizen, were negotiating the marriage of Albrecht and Agnes Frey. As the agreement was reached, Dürer made a self portrait, which he sent to the young lady. The portrait was meant to sustain his candidature, and to show how serious his intentions were. It shows the handsome young man holding in his hand a piece of the blue flower named Mannestreue (Man's Faithfulness).

Albrecht Dürer probably made the portrait because he was a very good son, and a sensible young man. He actually did not have any say in the matter. Everything was arranged between the fathers, and it appears that the negotiations were started by Frey. Dürer accepted everything out of respect for his father, and the times were imposing that young people should obey the wisdom of the elders.

Next - The Marriage

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