The 7.4 x 5.0 inch print from the 1524 copper etching of Frederick the Wise by Albrecht Dürer offered by Galerie Bessenge in Berlin may have attracted attention but no one was willing to bid the minimum of €4000. The auction is closed for that item but it is now for sale at that price (about $4900). When Dürer engraved the Archbishop of Mainz in 1523 he sent the archbishop the copper plate itself with 500 prints. That is almost the life of a copper plate with the fine detail that Dürer used. Probably Dürer also sent Frederick the Wise the 1524 copper plate with several hundred prints. To evaluate its worth a collector would have to know how many prints still exist as well as the degree of perfection of this particular print in the auction. It appears to me the Berlin print is a slightly finer printing than the print from the Dresden collection that Ingetraut Ludolphy used in her definitive 1984 biography of Frederick the Wise. On the other hand the Dresden print is not marred as the Berlin print is by a ‘small speck [‘kleines Fleckchen’] in the shadow beside the nose’, a not-so-small post-printing alteration.
I repeat my suspicion that because the bubbly lower lip is asymmetrical this lip was actually disfigured, probably from a jousting injury in Frederick’s youth. I see the same asymmetry on his chin in the 1496 portrait by Albrecht Dürer. Frederick the Wise was 33 in 1496, 61 in 1524. Dürer very appropriately added the acronym BMFVV (for Bene Merenti Fecit Vivus Vivo or ‘worthy of high praise even while still alive’). The ever innovative Dürer showed the spyglass windows reflecting in the pupils, an effect not appreciated by all art historians.
***The auction by Bassenge Gallerie in Berlin offered 18 prints of this kind by Albrecht Dürer. Four (including of course the Frederick the Wise portrait) did not get bids. The top amount paid for one of the 14 that received bids was €18,000 (about $22,000) for ‘Das große Pferd’.
This 1505 engraving is probably the knight’s ‘Schlachtross’ or warhorse; it is too robust to be his everyday palfrey and it is receiving too much attention from the knight to be one of his packhorses (Saumtier or Klepper). Dürer foreshortened the great horse and elevated the hind legs higher than the front to make it appear even more massive.
Q. Why do you think ‘Das große Pferd’ was so desired among the 18 prints available? Do you agree that Frederick the Wise is disfigured?