Albrecht Dürer, The Triumphal Arch


Albrecht Dürer and others, The Triumphal Arch, c. 1515, woodcut printed from 192 individual blocks, 357 x 295 cm, Germany © Trustees of the British Museum.

Albrecht Dürer and others, The Triumphal Arch, c. 1515, woodcut printed from 192 individual blocks, 357 x 295 cm, Germany © Trustees of the British Museum.

The Triumphal Arch is one of the largest prints ever produced. It was commissioned by the Holy Roman Emperor Maximilian I (1459-1519). The program was devised by the court historian and mathematician, Johann Stabius, who explains underneath that it was constructed after the model of “the ancient triumphal arches of the Roman Emperors.”

Figure of Sicambria—Maximilian’s genealogical tree is traced back to the first King of France, Clovis I, and the three female representations of the nations of Troy, Sicambia (in the lower Rhine) and Francia)

Figure of Sicambria—Maximilian’s genealogical tree is traced back to the first King of France, Clovis I, and the three female representations of the nations of Troy, Sicambia (in the lower Rhine) and Francia), detail, Albrecht Dürer and others, The Triumphal Arch, c. 1515, woodcut printed from 192 individual blocks, 357 x 295 cm, Germany © Trustees of the British Museum.

Above the central arch, entitled “Honor and Might,” is a genealogy of Maximilian in the form of a family tree (above). Above the left arch, “Praise,” and the right arch, “Nobility,” are represented events from his life. These are flanked by busts of emperors and kings on the left (image, left), and a column of Maximilian’s ancestors on the right. The outermost towers on either side show scenes from the private life of Maximilian.

Rudolf I (1217-1291) was the first Habsburg to be crowned King of the Romans. He played a key role in raising the status of the Habsburg family among the German feudal dynasties of central Europe (detail), Albrecht Dürer and others, The Triumphal Arch, c. 1515, woodcut printed from 192 individual blocks, 357 x 295 cm, Germany © Trustees of the British Museum (detail), Albrecht Dürer and others, The Triumphal Arch, c. 1515, woodcut printed from 192 individual blocks, 357 x 295 cm, Germany © Trustees of the British Museum.

Rudolf I (1217-1291) was the first Habsburg to be crowned King of the Romans. He played a key role in raising the status of the Habsburg family among the German feudal dynasties of central Europe (detail), Albrecht Dürer and others, The Triumphal Arch, c. 1515, woodcut printed from 192 individual blocks, 357 x 295 cm, Germany © Trustees of the British Museum (detail), Albrecht Dürer and others, The Triumphal Arch, c. 1515, woodcut printed from 192 individual blocks, 357 x 295 cm, Germany © Trustees of the British Museum.

The architect and painter Jörg Kölderer designed the overall appearance of the structure, and Dürer designed the individual scenes and architectural elements, some of which he sub-contracted to his pupils Hans Springinklee and Wolf Traut, and Albrecht Altdorfer of Regensburg.

The date 1515, which appears on the Arch, refers to the completion of the designs; the blocks were cut by Hieronymus Andreae of Nuremberg between 1515 and 1517. This impression belongs to the first edition of 1517-18 when about seven hundred sets were printed, but they are today very rare. It is undecorated apart from the word Halt in the German Halt Mass (“Keep to moderation”) which is gilded.


Additional resources:

View details on the British Museum website

G. Bartrum (ed.), Albrecht Dürer and his legacy (London and N.J., The British Museum Press and Princeton University Press, 2002).

E. Panofsky, The life and art of Albrecht Dürer  (Princeton University Press, 1945, 1971).

G. Bartrum, German Renaissance prints (London, The British Museum Press, 1995).

© Trustees of the British Museum

Cite this page as: The British Museum, "Albrecht Dürer, The Triumphal Arch," in Smarthistory, February 28, 2017, accessed March 23, 2019, https://smarthistory.org/albrecht-durer-the-triumphal-arch/.