Prayer Book of Emperor Maximilian I with Albrecht Dürer's and Lucas Cranach's Marginal Drawings

Prayer Book of Emperor Maximilian I with Albrecht Dürer's and Lucas Cranach's Marginal Drawings  – Prestel Verlag – 2 L.impr.membr. 64 / 67633 – Bayerische Staatsbibliothek (Munich, Germany) / Bibliothèque Municipale (Besançon, France)

Germany — 1514–1515

Political power, the artistic elite, and religious as well as secular motifs united in the Emperor's prayer book: a treasure of the German Renaissance at the beginning of the 16th century with arguably the most beautiful pen drawings of the time

  1. This prayer book is believed to have belonged to Emperor Maximilian I (1459–1518)

  2. The printed text is surrounded by some of the finest pen and ink drawings of the period

  3. They were added by Albrecht Dürer (1471–1528) and Lucas Cranach the Elder (1472–1553)

Prayer Book of Emperor Maximilian I with Albrecht Dürer's and Lucas Cranach's Marginal Drawings

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  1. Description
  2. Detail Picture
  3. Single Page
  4. Facsimile Editions (1)
Description
Prayer Book of Emperor Maximilian I with Albrecht Dürer's and Lucas Cranach's Marginal Drawings

Published in a limited run of ten copies, this splendid prayer book was printed on parchment in 1513 for the use of Emperor Maximilian I and his close supporters. This select group was designed to look like manuscripts and feature hand painted initials adorning the printed text, which uses an early form of Fraktur. One of the copies, believed to have been owned by the Emperor himself, was furnished with marginal pen and ink drawings by some of the finest masters of the period. A fragment of this manuscript, which is found today in Munich, features extraordinarily detailed and artful drawings in the grisaille style by no less than the famous German Renaissance masters Albrecht Dürer and Lucas Cranach the Elder. Aside from gorgeous and terrifying biblical scenes, an incredible variety of secular motifs adorns the margins of this fascinating synthesis of the arts.

Albrecht Dürer's and Lucas Cranach's Marginal Drawings in the Prayer Book of Emperor Maximilian I

The Prayer Book of Emperor Maximilian I is a Latin text published in 1513 by the imperial court printer Johann Schönsperger the Elder (ca. 1455-1521) in Augsburg, Germany. It was a parchment edition of only ten copies intended either for the personal use of Emperor Maximilian I (1459-1518), members of the Order of St. George, or those close to the Emperor. It is famous for its ornate typography with an early version of Fraktur, but one copy was additionally adorned with marginal drawings by leading artists of the time ca. 1514-15. For whom this sample was intended is unknown today, but researchers generally believe that it was made for Maximilian I. The precious book was divided at an unknown time with one section going to Besançon and the other to Munich, where it arrived ca. 1598-1600. The Munich manuscript is famous for its incredible marginal drawings from two of the most important artists of the German Renaissance: Albrecht Dürer (1471-1528) and Lucas Cranach the Elder (1472-1553).

Marginal Grisaille Masterpieces

The pen and ink drawings are monochrome, either black, red, or blue, and make masterful use of the grisaille technique, which emphasizes shading and detail over color. Aside from religious imagery typical for a prayer book, there are numerous secular scenes as well including doctors and musicians, strangely dressed foreigners, flora and fauna, hybrid creatures and other drolleries, and various battle scenes. The attention to detail and masterful execution of the artwork is all the more impressive considering that it was executed in the limited space surrounding the text, which was not originally designed by the rubricator to leave room for such embellishment. Nonetheless, these masterful drawings from the hands of Dürer and Cranach are a testament to the skill of two of the greatest artists of the Northern Renaissance.

Codicology

Alternative Titles
Albrecht Dürers und Lukas Cranachs Randzeichnungen zum Gebetbuche Kaiser Maximilians I in der Bayerischen Staatsbibliothek zu München
Gebetbuch Maximilians I
Albrecht Dürers und Lucas Cranachs Randzeichnungen im Gebetbuch Kaiser Maximilians I.
Gebetbuch Kaiser Maximilians mit den Randzeichnungen von Albrecht Dürer und Lucas Cranach dem Älterern
Origin
Germany
Date
1514–1515
Language
Script
Early version of Fraktur
Illustrations
Masterful monochrome pen and ink drawings
Artist / School
Previous Owners
Emperor Maximilian I
Detail Picture

Prayer Book of Emperor Maximilian I with Albrecht Dürer's and Lucas Cranach's Marginal Drawings

Fighting Bucks

During the rut, the mating season of various ruminants including deer, the males experience an increase in testosterone that not only drives them to find females to breed with but also causes them to fight one another. In fact, antlers are used primarily for fighting other bucks rather than predators, which deer can easily outrun. This image of a young buck challenging an older one is the work of Lucas Cranach the Elder, who used a winged snake with a ruby ring as his signature (not pictured).

Prayer Book of Emperor Maximilian I with Albrecht Dürer's and Lucas Cranach's Marginal Drawings  – Prestel Verlag – 2 L.impr.membr. 64 / 67633 – Bayerische Staatsbibliothek (Munich, Germany) / Bibliothèque Municipale (Besançon, France)
Single Page

Prayer Book of Emperor Maximilian I with Albrecht Dürer's and Lucas Cranach's Marginal Drawings

Pater Noster

Rather than the standard text of the Lord’s Prayer, this prayer is actually the Memento comprehensionis et temptationis tuae. Nonetheless, these splendid marginal drawings from the hand of Albrecht Dürer, whose iconic monogram signature is barely visible under the fox, clearly makes an illusion to the famous line “lead us not into temptation”.

A richly dressed Landsknecht armed with a halberd looks on as a fox lures chickens by playing a flute. Pope Gregory I declared the rooster the emblem of Christianity and Pope Nicholas I declared that the figure of the rooster should be placed on every church steeple. The rooster specifically symbolizes Christian vigilance because it announces the coming of morning, chasing away the devil and his demons.

Prayer Book of Emperor Maximilian I with Albrecht Dürer's and Lucas Cranach's Marginal Drawings  – Prestel Verlag – 2 L.impr.membr. 64 / 67633 – Bayerische Staatsbibliothek (Munich, Germany) / Bibliothèque Municipale (Besançon, France)
Facsimile Editions

#1 Albrecht Dürers und Lukas Cranachs Randzeichnungen zum Gebetbuche Kaiser Maximilians I in der Bayerischen Staatsbibliothek zu München

Prestel Verlag – Frankfurt, 1987

Publisher: Prestel Verlag – Frankfurt, 1987
Binding: Red velvet with gold embossing
Commentary: 1 volume
Language: German
1 volume: Exact reproduction of the original document (extent, color and size) Reproduction of 58 selected pages of the original document as detailed as possible (scope, format, colors). The binding may not correspond to the original or current document binding.
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