Albrecht Dürer (1471–1528) was born in the Franconian city of Nuremberg, one of the strongest artistic and commercial centers in Europe during the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries. He was a brilliant painter, draftsman, and writer, though his first and probably greatest artistic impact was in the medium of printmaking. More than any other Northern European artist, Dürer was engaged by the artistic practices and theoretical interests of Italy. He visited the country twice, from 1494 to 1495 and again from 1505 to 1507, absorbing firsthand some of the great works of the Italian Renaissance, as well as the classical heritage and theoretical writings of the region. While in Nuremberg in 1512, the Holy Roman emperor Maximilian I enlisted Dürer into his service, and Dürer continued to work mainly for the emperor until 1519. The emperor is depicted here as an elegant private gentleman. The desired effect of dignity and power is achieved by the manner in which the emperor fills the frame and the brilliant execution of the fur collar. Several different interpretations have been suggested for the pomegranate in the emperor's hand: as a private proxy for the imperial orb, as a reference to the myth of Persephone and thus a reference to death, and as an allusion to the conquest of Granada by the Christian armies in 1492.
In addition to the beautiful building of the Cathédrale Saints-Michel-et-Gudule in Brussels, they have some lovely art that I thought I would share. For me, the virgin and infant shown above is one of the most delicate and evocative portraits I have seen. I must admit to spending time in front of this sculpture and being moved when I left. I resolved to do some research on Conrad Meit and I found a quite interesting story. As court sculptor to Margaret of Austria in Mechelen beginning in 1514, Conrad Meit (1470-1550) was a major proponent of the Renaissance style, noted for his fusion of German realism and Italian idealism. Also his introduction of the secular bust, which emerged in Northern Europe only around 1500 makes him a seminal figure in the history of sculpture and art collecting in the tradition of the Kunstkammer (cabinet of art and marvels). Both Albrecht Dürer and Lucas Cranach the Elder appreciated the work of Meitner Conrat (Conrad Meit). On his journey to the Netherlands, Dürer (who may have known the sculptor from Wittenberg) dined with Meit several times. In his diary, he referred to Meit as, “The good carver named Conrad, whose equal I've never seen, who serves the Emperor's daughter Margaret”. This is one of his larger sculptures at about 25 inches in height.