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Albrecht Dürer Visiting Antwerp in 1520

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Henri Leys
Antwerp 1815 – Antwerp 1869
Oil on panel
140x210 cm
Inventory number 2198

On Sunday 19 August 1520, during his visit to Antwerp, the famous German artist Albrecht Dürer was a spectator of the Procession of Our Lady. He took detailed notes of the event in his travel diary, describing the crowd, the festive atmosphere, and the beautiful attire and floats with biblical or hagiographical scenes. Several centuries later, the diary entries provided the inspiration for this painting by Henri Leys representing Albrecht Dürer Visiting Antwerp in 1520. From the porch of an inn in the centre of town, Dürer watches the guild of the arbalests march by. His precious cloak and long curly hair immediately draw the viewer's attention. Dürer's fellow artist Quentin Metsys provides commentary to the spectacle, while the philosopher Desiderius Eramsus indicates something to Agnes Frey, Dürer's wife. In the centre of the composition, with her back facing the viewer, the maid Susanna, who accompanied the couple on their visit, attends to a child.

Nostalgic retrospection

Like a historian, Leys has reconstructed a day during Dürer's stay in Antwerp. Yet the scene is not entirely truthful, as Metsys and Erasmus were not present at the procession. Rather than being a historically accurate representation, the painting offers a nostalgic look back at Antwerp's rich intellectual and artistic life at the dawn of the city's golden age.

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