‘Holy Things:’ Dürer’s ‘Feast of the Rosary’ in the Rudolfine Court

Miranda Lee Elston


Rudolf II passionate appetite for works by celebrated German artist Albrecht Dürer’s led to an aggressive campaign to acquire original works and promote his court artists to create imitations of Dürer’s works. This paper explores the question of how and why Emperor Rudolf set about collecting works of art by Dürer that were originally intended for a religious devotional context and in what ways did his interest in Dürer’s religious works connect to representations of Rudolf’s cultural and imperial legacy. By examining Dürer’s Feast of the Rosary (1506), this paper will consider the ways in which Dürer’s legacy and German heritage became interwoven with changing perceptive of the status of the art object which centered Dürer’s artworks as an allegorical representation of himself and his heritage. Furthermore, within the Rudolfine court, Dürer’s altarpieces functioned as representations of Rudolf’s cultural legacy through the appropriation of religious images of his imperial claim and past heritage. Through the shifting veneration of the artist, a new material culture of Empire was established through the collecting habits of the Rudolfine Court.


Rudolf II; Dürer; Empire; Collecting

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Figure 1. Albrecht Dürer, Adoration of the Magi, 1504. 99 × 113.5 cm. Oil on wood. Uffizi Gallery, Florence.

Figure 2. Albrecht Dürer, Feast of the Rosary, 1506. 162 x 192 cm. Oil on poplar wood. Sternberg Palace collection, National Gallery, Prague.

Figure 3. Lukas Kilian, Albrecht Dürer, 1608. 33.7 x 19.8 cm. Yale University Art Gallery, New Haven.

Figure 4. Lukas Kilian, Alberti Dureri Noribergensis, Pictorum Germaniae Principis effigies genuina duplex (Double Portrait of Dürer), c.1628. 38 x 26.4 cm. Engraving. London, British Museum, no. E,2.105 (CC BY-NC-SA 4.0).

Figure 5. Aegidius Sadeler II, Head of an Angel (Series: Heads After Dürer), 1598. Engraving, 35.8 x 22.4 cm. London, British Museum, no. 1845,0809.607 (CC BY-NC-SA 4.0).


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