Stag Beetle

Object Details

Title:

Stag Beetle

Artist/Maker(s):

Albrecht Dürer (German, 1471 - 1528)

Culture:

German

Place(s):

Germany (Place created)

Date:

1505

Medium:

Watercolor and gouache; upper left corner of paper added, with tip of left antenna painted in by a later hand

Dimensions:

14.1 x 11.4 cm (5 9/16 x 4 1/2 in.)

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"It is indeed true," wrote Albrecht Dürer, "that art is omnipresent in nature, and the true artist is he who can bring it out." The Stag Beetle is one of Dürer's most influential and most copied nature studies. Singling out a beetle as the focal point of a work of art was unprecedented in 1505, when most of Dürer's contemporaries believed that insects were the lowest of creatures. Dürer's keen interest in nature, however, was a typical manifestation of the Renaissance. This beetle, rendered with such care and respect, seems almost heroic as he looms above the page.

Dürer probably made this drawing in the studio, based on quick sketches from nature and memory. The level of finish shows that he considered it an independent work of art, not a preparatory study. He used bodycolor to show volume, as in the hard, convex outer wings. Transparent washes represent light effects, such as the shadow cast by the body, which the legs raise off the ground. Seen up close, the creature's legs and spiky mandibles suggest its kinship to imaginary beasts in late Gothic depictions of Hell or the temptation of Saint Anthony Abbott.

Exhibitions
Albrecht Dürer und die Tier- und Pflanzenstudien der Renaissance (April 18 to June 30, 1985)
  • Albertina, (Vienna), April 18 to June 30, 1985
Drawings from the J. Paul Getty Museum (May 24 to August 8, 1993) (39)
  • The Metropolitan Museum of Art, (New York), May 24 to August 8, 1993
Drawings from the J. Paul Getty Museum (October 29, 1993 to January 23, 1994) (63)
  • Royal Academy of Arts (London), October 29, 1993 to January 23, 1994
Color in Drawing (March 10 to May 24, 1998) (63)
  • The J. Paul Getty Museum at the Getty Center, (Los Angeles), March 10 to May 24, 1998
Art and Science: Joris Hoefnagel and the Representation of Nature in the Renaissance (October 12, 1999 to January 9, 2000) (63)
  • The J. Paul Getty Museum at the Getty Center, (Los Angeles), October 12, 1999 to January 9, 2000
Departures: 11 Artists at the Getty (February 29 to May 7, 2000) (63)
  • The J. Paul Getty Museum at the Getty Center, (Los Angeles), February 29 to May 7, 2000
German and Swiss Drawings from the Permanent Collection (June 6 to August 20, 2000) (63)
  • The J. Paul Getty Museum at the Getty Center, (Los Angeles), June 6 to August 20, 2000
Picturing the Natural World (June 17 to September 7, 2003) (63)
  • The J. Paul Getty Museum at the Getty Center, (Los Angeles), June 17 to September 7, 2003
The Prismatic Palette: Four Centuries of Watercolors (October 5, 2004 to January 2, 2005) (63)
  • The J. Paul Getty Museum at the Getty Center, (Los Angeles), October 5, 2004 to January 2, 2005
Maria Sibylla Merian & Daughters: Women of Art and Science (February 23 to August 31, 2008) (63)
  • The J. Paul Getty Museum at the Getty Center, (Los Angeles), June 10 to August 31, 2008
The Secret Life of Drawings (November 23, 2010 to February 13, 2011) (63)
  • The J. Paul Getty Museum at the Getty Center, (Los Angeles), November 23, 2010 to February 13, 2011
Related Media
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    Audio: Stag Beetle