01 Apr Sensational Discovery Sheds New Light on Dürer’s ‘Young Hare’
On 27 February this year, we held an absolute sensation in our hands: a newly discovered manuscript by Renaissance painter Albrecht Dürer. At first, many of us thought it must be a fake, but it has now been confirmed as genuine.
The manuscript in question is entitled: ‘De Ovis Paschalibus’ and dates back to 1528. It went undiscovered for so long because it was bound together with one of Dürer’s other works, a theoretical treatise on human proportions entitled ‘De symmetria partium humanorum corporum’. Dürer was renowned for grappling with these theories – his findings are what made his oeufre so ingenious. But this treatise does not focus on people.
‘It’s an absolute sensation,’ says Ursula Kampmann, Curator of the MoneyMuseum‘s book collection, ‘A find like this is every curator’s dream. I was certain it was genuine from the start – the handwriting on the drawings is unmistakably Dürer’s.’
In this work, Dürer discusses the proportions and painting of Easter eggs, illustrating his points with drawings and texts. ‘We can assume that Dürer was a big fan of Easter,’ continues Curator Kampmann, ‘These works shed a whole new light on his famous ‘Young Hare’. Art history will need to be rewritten in parts – he was clearly painting an Easter bunny!’
Here they are – Dürer’s never-before-seen drawings:
How Easter Eggs Influenced the Renaissance – The World Would Never Be the Same Again
Further, extensive studies will now have to be carried out. But for now, it is clear that Dürer fits perfectly into a long line of major Renaissance figures who drew inspiration from Easter eggs. To this day, schoolchildren in China are taught a story – unjustly forgotten in Europe – about the education of Leonardo da Vinci.
According to this story, da Vinci’s master taught him how to draw by making him observe and sketch eggs repeatedly over a long period of time, reproducing them as accurately as possible. Da Vinci soon grew tired of this lesson, but his master explained that repetition was the only real key to perfection and true understanding. Leonardo da Vinci took this advice and produced hundreds of egg sketches over the years – enabling him to become the painter and genius that we know today.
Of course, we can’t discuss this subject without also mentioning Columbus, one of Dürer’s contemporaries. The anecdote about Columbus breaking the egg is fairly well-known. However, you can only interpret the message of the anecdote correctly if you know that it wasn’t about any old egg, but an Easter egg – which you can see if you look very closely at this engraving.
So what did it all mean? The word ‘Easter’ actually derives from the word ‘east’. Ēostre was the Germanic goddess of spring and dawn, which is marked, as we all know, by the sun rising in the east – this is how the ‘east’ got its name. Easter was originally a festival celebrated in her honour, hence the name. For Columbus, the Easter egg represented the East, and breaking it represented the fact that the journey to the East would first take them west – and that’s how America was discovered.
We’ll be sure to keep you posted about this astonishing discovery. Tomorrow, we’ll be publishing all of our new findings and images right here!
Follow-up: April fools!
You’ve probably realised by now that we published this article on 1 April… Maybe our imaginations ran away with us a little bit! The story about Leonardo’s egg sketches really is taught in some schools in China, but there doesn’t seem to be any solid evidence that it really happened. Click here to read more about it. And of course, the Columbus story wasn’t about Easter eggs either – but Easter really did start out as a festival celebrating the goddess Ēostre.
Many thanks to the brilliant Claire Franklin for her wonderful drawings – here are a bonus two for you to enjoy!
If you want to see more of Claire’s work, we recommend taking a look at her weekly cartoons on Coinsweekly.com
We may not have any Easter egg-related books by Dürer here in the MoneyMuseum, but we do have his book on human proportions!