Albrecht Dürer, born in 1471 in Nürnberg, Germany, visited Italy in 1494 and again in 1505, and was the first northern European artist to immerse himself in the art of the Italian Renaissance.
A deeply religious man, he was affected both in his thought and in his work by the apocalyptic spirit of the time in the face of famine, plague, and social and religious upheaval. His paintings and woodcuts are a close examination of the splendor--as well as the potential terror--of creation: the human body, animals, grasses, and flowers.
Although he remained a Roman Catholic throughout his life, he was a warm admirer of Martin Luther, and expressed regret that he had never been able to paint him "as a lasting memorial to the Christian man who has helped me out of great anxiety." He died at Nuremberg on 6 April 1528. Luther wrote to a friend:
Affection bids us mourn for one who was the best of men, yet You may well consider him happy that he has made so good an end, and that Christ has taken him from the midst of this time of trouble.... May he rest in peace with his fathers. Amen.
Michelangelo Buonarroti, sculptor, painter, poet, and architect, was born near Florence, Italy, on 6 March 1475. In his youth, he was an enthusiastic admirer of Savonarola, the fiery reforming preacher of Florence (d. 1498). When he was 21, he went to Rome and there carved the Pieta ("Compassion"), a statue of the Virgin holding the dead body of her Son in her lap after He was taken down from the cross.
Five years later he returned to Florence and there carved a giant statue of the youthful David going out to meet Goliath. His best-known work is his painting of the walls and ceiling of the pope's chapel--the Sistine Chapel--with a sequence of frescoes prortraying the Creation and the Last Judgement, accompanied by portraits of prophets and sybils. He carved a set of statues for the tomb of the de Medici family, and another for the tomb of Pope Julius II, including a magnificent and awe-inspiring portrayal of Moses. He also designed the dome of St. Peter's basilica, and then pent his last years with poetry, architecture, and drawing. He left more than 300 sonnets, which contain his spiritual autobiography.
The following sonnet by him (trans. J. A. Symonds) is called
Now hath my life across a stormy sea
Like a frail bark reached that wide port where all
Are bidden, ere the final reckoning fall
Of good and evil for eternity.
Now know I well how that fond phantasy
Which made my soul the worshipper and thrall
Of earthly art, is vain; how criminal
Is that which all men seek unwillingly.
Those amorous thoughts which were so lightly dressed,
What are they when the double death is nigh?
The one I know for sure, the other dread.
Painting nor sculpture now can lull to rest
My soul that turns to His great love on high,
Whose arms to clasp us on the cross were spread.
O God, who by thy Holy Spirit dost give to some the word of Wisdom, to others the word of knowledge, and to others the word of faith: We praise thy Name for the gifts of preaching through visual representation that thou didst bestow upon thy servants Albrecht Dürer and Michaelangelo Buonarroti, and we pray that thy Church may never be destitute of such gifts; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who with thee and the same Spirit liveth and reigneth, one God, for ever and ever.
O God, who by your Holy Spirit give to some the word of wisdom, To others the word of knowledge, and to others the word of faith: We praise you for the gifts of preaching through visual representation that you gave to your servants Albrecht Duerer and Michaelangelo Buonarroti, and we pray that your Church may never be destitute of such gifts; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns, with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever.