Historical Anatomies on the Web map Introduction Browse Titles Titles to be Added Historical Anatomies Home History of Medicine Division National Library of Medicine National Institutes of Health

Dürer, Albrecht. Vier Bücher von menschlicher Proportion. (Nuremberg: Hieronymus Formschneyder, 1528).

Albrecht Dürer (1471-1528) was a noted German painter, graphic artist, and humanist. After receiving basic training in the arts from his father, a Nuremberg goldsmith, and painter Michael Wolgemut, Dürer visited Venice, where he was exposed to the artistic culture of the Italian Renaissance. Upon returning to Nuremberg, he became one of the leading figures of the Northern Renaissance. Dürer was interested not only in the arts but pursued the sciences as well, including perspective and the proportions of the human body. He is best known for his woodcuts and engravings, especially in works with religious themes, such as those appearing in his noted edition of The Apocalypse which appeared in 1498.

Düürer's Vier Bücher von menschlicher Proportion was written, designed and edited by the artist himself and is the first published attempt to apply the science of human anatomical proportions to aesthetics. It is divided into four parts: the first two parts discuss the proper proportions of the human form, the third part adjusts the proportions using mathematical rules, with examples of extremely fat and thin bodies, and the fourth shows the human figure in motion. Most notable are the numerous anthropometrical woodcuts and the first use of cross-hatching to show movement through shades and shadows in wood engraving. Albrecht Dürer died in Nuremberg in April, 1528, six months before Menschlicher Proportion was printed by Hieronymus Formscheyder. At the end of the text is a short elegy written to Dürer by fellow humanist, Willibald Pirckheimer.

Further Reading:

Dürer, A. Hjerin sind begriffen vier bücher von menschlicher Proportion. (Dietikon-Zürich : Stocker-Schmid, 1969). Facsimile reprint.

Morton's Medical Bibliography (Garrison and Morton). Ed. By Jeremy Norman. Fifth ed. (Aldershot, Hants, England : Scolar Press ; Brookfield, Vt., USA : Gower Pub. Co., 1991). No. 149.

Strauss, W.L. The Human Figure by Albrecht Dürer: The Complete "Dresden Sketchbook." Ed. & trans. by W.L. Strauss. (New York: Dover Publications, 1972).