16th century (her PhD is in 16th century German Literature) and she sent me this when she got home:
" For your entertainment, I thought I'd
send you a little excerpt from some of the letters Albrecht
Dürer wrote to one of his clients. Although this was over
500 years ago, I think you'll find that it sounds familiar!"
From Albrecht Dürer to Jacob Heller:
[November 4, 1508] ...For I neglect myself
for it, suffer loss, and earn anything but thanks from
you. I am using, let me tell you, quite the
finest colors I can get.
I will need twenty ducats for the ultramarine alone, not
the other expenses. Once the picture is finished, I am quite
that you yourself will say that you have never seen anything
beautiful. And I dare not expect to finish the middle panel
beginning to end in less than thirteen months. I
shall not begin
any other work till it is finished, though it will be much
my hurt. Then what do you suppose my expenses will be when
working at it? You would not take less than 200
florins to keep
me for that time. Think what you have repeatedly written
the materials! If you wanted to buy a pound of ultramarine
could hardly get it for 100 florins, for I cannot buy an
of it good for less than ten or twelve ducats.
And so, dear Mr. Jacob Heller, my writing is not so utterly
as you think, and I have not broken my promise in this
You further reproach me with having promised you that I
paint your picture with the greatest possible care that I
could. That I certainly never said unless I was out of my
For in my whole lifetime I could hardly finish it. For
greatest care I can hardly finish a face in half a year.
picture contains fully one hundred faces, not counting
and landscape and other things in it. Besides, who ever
of making such a work for an altarpiece? No one could
But I believe that what I wrote to you was: to make the
with great or more than ordinary pains because of the
spent waiting for me....
[August 26, 1509] ... I have painted it
with great care, as you will see, using none but the best
I could get. It is painted with good ultramarine under and
about 5 or 6 times. And then after it was finished I
it twice more so that it may last a long time. I know that
you keep it clean it will remain bright and fresh 500 years.
it is not made as one usually paints. So have it kept clean
don't let it be touched or sprinkled with holy water. I feel
it will not be criticized, unless for the purpose of
me. And I am sure it will please you well.
No one could ever pay me to paint a picture again
with so much
labor. Herr Georg Tausy himself wanted me to
paint him a Madonna
in a landscape with the same care and in the same size as
picture, and he would have given me 400 florins for it. I
refused to do it, for it would have made a beggar of me. Of
pictures, I will in a year paint a pile which no one would
it possible for one man to do in the time. With such
can earn something. But very careful nicety does not pay.
I shall stick to my engraving, and if I had done so before
today have been a richer man by 1000 florins....