Meggs—Chapter 6, Incunabula


Nuremberg Chronicles


Medieval University

(Latin academics refer to it as Liber Chronicarum or Book of Chronicles) it is an illustrated world history structured to follows the story of human history as related in the Bible; it includes the histories of a number of important Western cities. It appeared in 1493, and was the second of the two great masterpieces of the Incunabula, the first being Gutenberg’s 42-line bible.
Some 700 copies still exist in 2011 (around 400 in Latin, and 300 in German). Back in the 15th Century, many copies were hand-coloured after printing.

Specialist shops were set up throughout southern Germany to colour the Chronicle, which was not only a world history to that date (as recorded within the first 6 ‘ages’ of the book) but also an outlook on the end of the world written from a religious perspective (Last Judgement).

In our modern ideology, we take it as natural the sense of ourselves as unique, autonomous individuals. We have a belief in our unique personal identity.  Traditional Art History has assumed the emphasis on artistic individuality beginning in the Renaissance as the “natural” emergence of the self, recent critical theory has emphasized that the conception of the self is in actuality a construction with a specific social history. We consciously or unconsciously fashion our identities out of the alternatives our cultural contexts provide.

While Dürer was not the first artist to produce a self-portrait, he can be arguably claimed to be the first artist that returned to this subject matter throughout his career. In these images Dürer constructs or, “fashions” his identity as an artist. Joseph Koerner, in his book entitled The Moment of Self-Portraiture in German Renaissance Art, has written: 

 A glance at the artist’s earlier likenesses… complicates our ideas about the unity and function of the self in self-portraiture at 1500. Viewed in succession, these works chronicle not so much one person’s physical and artistic maturation as a sequence of roles enacted by the artist for a variety of occasions.

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