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Martin Germ

Christology of Nicholas of Cusa and Christological Iconography

in Self-Portraits of Albrecht Drer

UDK 75 Nicolas Cusanus

75 Duerer, A.


Martin Germ
University of Ljubljana, Slovenia

The identification with Christ in self-portrayal of Albrecht Drer is most often based on Drers empathy with Christs passion
although in some cases a more complex idea of christomimesis can not be excluded. This is most evident in his Self-Portrait in
a Fur-Collared Robe (1500, Alte Pinakothek, Munich). The article concentrates on the possible influence of Nicholas of Cusas
Christology on the iconography of Drers Self-Portrait of 1500 a theory much discussed in the last fifty years. The comparative analysis of philosophy of Nicholas of Cusa and Drers artistic and written opus brings to light surprisingly close views on
beauty, harmony, ideal proportions, and the importance of mathematics in visual arts. Even more important is the common
notion of Man and the relationship between Man and God. Cusanuss teachings on Christ mark a new stage in the history of
Christian humanism: by describing Christ as homo perfectus and Man as alter Deus the Cusan emphasizes a close relationship between Christ and Man, thus paving the way for the revolutionary humanistic notion of Man as (almost) equal to God.
The relationship is so intimate that according to the Cusan a man who tries to envisage His true image vera icon Christi - will
finally see it as a mirror-reflection of his own face. That is precisely the case in Drers Self-Portrait in Munich: Drer depicts
himself as Christ because the real image of God is actually a mirror in which the spectators own features are reflected.

Key words: Albrecht Drer, Self-Portrait, Nicholas of Cusa, Christology, Iconography, Renaissance art

Despite numerous studies in the revolutionary iconography of Drers Christological self-portraiture this issue still remains something of a challenge for the scholars.1 The original synthesis of self-portraiture and Christological motif Drer was the first European artist to fashion himself after Christs
likeness is multi-layered and comes up in several versions in his opus. Most often it follows a simple
pattern where the painter uses the established iconography of Christ and assimilates it to the desired
form of self-portrait. This process generates an important new message, arising from the identification
of the artist with the chosen iconographic type of Christ.
Perhaps the most straightforward example of this approach is the drawing Self-Portrait as the Man
of Sorrows (1522, formerly Kunsthalle, Bremen; fig.1) where Drer chose to portray himself as the Man of
Sorrows.2 The painter had caught fever during his visit to the Netherlands and had suffered severe pain
consequently he identified with Christ in his suffering.3 He portrayed himself in a modified version
of the traditional iconographic type which at the time of his illness corresponded with his self-image.
The utmost naturalistic approach in the treatment of the figure speaks volumes for Drers feelings. The
relation between Christs suffering and his own suffering appears, slightly modified, throughout Drers

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opus and sheds further light on the lost Bremen drawing. Such analogy is recognisable in the drawing
of The Suffering Christ (charcoal, 1503, British Museum, London; fig. 2) which includes an inscription
(besides the prominent Drers monogram) explaining that the drawing had originated at the time of
his illness.4 Another side of the concealed identification is shown in the nude self-portrait from Weimar
(Nude Self-Portrait, pen and brush, c. 1503, Staatliche Kunstsammlung, Weimar; fig. 3) which was done at
approximately the same period. Here Drers emaciated body is marked by a peculiar crease or shadow
in the place where one usually finds Christs side wound. Werner Schmidt argues that this is a direct allusion to Christs mortal wound.5
Many art historians agree that Drers identification with the suffering Christ should most probably be interpreted along the premises of the late medieval idea of Conformitas Christi , and they quote
Thomas Kempis and his Imitatio Christi as the most likely source.6 The notion of deliberate following in
the footsteps of Christ through empathy with his Passion was widely spread throughout Germany and
can be found in Cusanuss work as well. Yet it doesnt feature prominently in his soteriological doctrine
which invokes a different understanding of mans relation to Christ and consequently can hardly be
considered as substantial influence on Drer.
Another example where Christological content blends with self-portraiture in Drers opus is the
engraving Sudarium of St. Veronica Supported by two Angels (1513, British Museum, London; fig.4). Here
the authors identification with Christ is shown by the fact that Drer transfers his own features into
those of the Holy Face. The motif itself is traditional, both in title and execution two angels holding up
a sudarium with the imprint of Christs features in which we now recognize Drers own face. This then
is no longer a classical portrait but a modification of the Christological iconographic type by means of
introduction of authors own features into the image of Christ.7 Here, as before, the identification with
Christ is indicated through empathy with the suffering, which is evident by the choice of the iconographic type and follows the leading topos of participation in Christs passion. But in this case one should not
fail to consider the idea of chrystomimesis in a wider theological, philosophical and humanistic context
as well. This train of thought is further supported by the most complex blend of Christological iconography and self-portraiture in Drers opus embodied in his famous Self-Portrait in a Fur-Collared Robe (oil
on lime panel, 1500, Alte Pinakothek, Munich; fig. 5).8
There is no doubt that the panel was meant to be a self-portrait, a fact which is further supported
by the inscription in gold: Albertus Durerus Noricus ipsum me proprijs sic effingebam coloribus aetatis anno
XXVIII. But at the same time it is evident that it is more than a self-portrait9 and that the problem of
Christological iconography in this case seems rather more complicated. We are not dealing with a mere
application or modification of a chosen iconographic type but with a wider context in the understanding of chrystomimesis which unveils a complex relation between the artists self-perception and his understanding of Christ.
The 1500 Christomorphic Self-Portrait from Alte Pinakothek received undivided attention and numerous interpretations as one of the greatest Drers masterpieces.10 It is not the purpose of this paper
to summarise them all, I would just like to concentrate on the aspect of possible influence of Nicholas
of Cusa on Drer, a theory first introduced by Franz Winzinger.11 His argument was resonant and discussions that followed illuminated the iconography of the Christomorphic Self-Portrait from different
points of view.12 Commentators also pointed to the limitations of Winzingers argument, namely that
there is no direct historical proof to support the Cusans influence on Drer. This remains a fact, yet the


Germ, Christology of Nicholas of Cusa and Christological Iconography in Self-Portraits...

(possible) non-existence of archival documents in support of the thesis does not necessarily imply that
Drer could not have been acquainted with some of the key ideas by the Cardinal of Cusa, who at that
time was widely known both in Italy and Germany.13 Even the more sceptical authors accept the possibility that Drer could have learned about Cusanuss teachings through his circle of friends, the leading German humanists Wilibald Pirkheimer and Conrad Celtis.14 It is a historical fact that the Strasbourg
edition of Cusanuss writings (Opuscula, edited by the Cardinals pupil and secretary Peter von Erkelenz
in 1488) received a substantial acclaim of German humanists. This is further supported by the scope of
attention devoted to Cusanus in the 1510 Speculum intellectuale felicitatis humanae, published by Ulrich Pinder in Nuremberg.15 And even before that Hartmann Schedel praises Cusanus in his Nuremberg
Chronicle of 1493 as a famous and honoured scholar: Nicolaus von Cusa, ein Deutscher, ein vortrefflicher
und hochgelehrter Kardinal, wurde zu dieser Zeit gerhmt und gepreisen 16 Finally, there also remains
the fact that Cusanuss godfather Anton Koberger, who owned a printing house in Nuremberg from
1469 on, published a portion of Cardinals writings.
But let us put aside the question of how Drer may have learned about Cusanuss work, and concentrate rather on the similarity of those ideas which show that Drer must have been familiar with at
least parts of Cusanuss teachings, especially his Christology. Winzinger pointed out several parallels
but, surprisingly, didnt provide a broader analysis of Cusanuss work. As the starting point of his thesis
he used an exact formal analysis of the 1500 Self-Portrait. Winzinger successfully proved the hypothesis,
put forward already by Ludwig Justi,17 i. e. that the famous panel isnt a mere self-depiction of the Nuremberg master but also a carefully thought-out construction built on the principles of ideal numerical
proportions and geometric forms. The scheme incorporates the basic forms, the circle, square and equilateral triangle, and is based on the use of a unified measure in the form of inter-pupillary distance. Even
though there are some digressions from perfect symmetry, this proves to be a deliberate move which
gives the face its individuality and likeness without any harm to the original scheme.18
Winzinger outlined briefly the development of the Neo-Platonic concept of beauty with regard to
the motif of Christs beauty and mentioned Nicholas of Cusa and his symbolism of geometric forms, but
didnt touch on Cusanuss aesthetics and Christology (which are inseparable) at all. Here precisely lies
the weakness of his argument, because in Cusanuss opus we can find ideas which shed new light on
the complex iconography of the Christomorphic Self-Portrait. In good measure this deficiency was dealt
with by Joseph Leo Koerner who, in his argument, apart from De Docta Ignorantia and the notorious
De Visione Dei, also included Idiota de mente. His excellent study covers much more that just Cusanuss
influence on Drer, yet again Koerner doesnt treat Cusanuss Christology with due attention and causes
certain critical points in the iconographic analysis of 1500 Panel to go unnoticed. It is of course impossible to discuss within this paper in depth both the Cusans Christology and aesthetics, but nevertheless
I would like to outline those points which are instrumental in the understanding of the iconography of
the Christomorphic Self-Portrait.19
One of the key points of the Cusans Christology is a new, radically individualised notion of Christ.
It is marked by the changed evaluation of man, his free will and his creativity. Nicholas of Cusa stresses
the active role of every individual who in certain aspects is almost equal to Christ. Each individual is
completely free to decide to follow Christ, who is the only path towards Redemption. In his teachings
Cusanus surpasses the established belief that it is true faith and following in Christs footsteps that make
man more Christ-like in that he also acknowledges the visual component of chrystomimesis, which of


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course is of tantamount importance for visual arts.20 It is also important to note that on the other hand
he tries to illustrate the chosen Christological content with a wide range of metaphors from the world
of visual arts.21 Apart from this he is also capable to think as an artist and doesnt hesitate to illustrate
even the most demanding theological topics with examples from contemporary painting. His Christology and anthropology are both ripe with metaphors of mirror and painted portrait which he uses to
illustrate the relation between God and man.
The most famous example of this metaphorisation can be found in De Visione Dei where Cusanus
uses the metaphor of Gods vision based on the vera icon type of Christ. De Visione Dei is the most quoted text in the work of those scholars who assert the Cusans influence on Drer. However, the majority of
them dont surpass the central idea of The Holy Face. They concentrate on the classic topos of an artist
who through his work associates himself with alter Deus, but they dont discuss the overall message of
the text nor do they read the text itself within the broader context of Cusanuss Christological teachings.22
Using the image of vera icon or the portrait of the All-seeing Nicholas of Cusa emphasises the
omnivoyant view which follows the beholder. Cusanus sent an image of the Omnivoyant along with his
treatise to the monks at Tegernsee to illustrate his idea. He believed it was the best way to make them
see the divine truth: Si vos humaniter ad divina vehere contendo similitudine quadam hoc fieri oportet. Sed
inter humana opera non repperi imaginem omnia videntis proposito nostro convenientiorem, ita quod facies
subtili arte pictoria ita se habeat quasi cuncta circumspicat. 23 (Cusanus shows a considerable knowledge
of contemporary art by enumerating several works of art that have the same quality of omnivoyance).24
Due to the peculiarity of this type of painting a unique relation arises between the painting and its
viewer (or several viewers), between the omnipresent and omnivoyant vision of God and the vision
of each individual viewer. The depiction of this relationship is for Cusanus the beginning of his major
theme of the relation between God and man, the absolute and the individual, etc., which leads to the
pivotal point of his philosophy: coincidentia oppositorum.25 His philosophical conjecture finds its perfect
illustration in an accomplished work of art: the vision that is fixed, yet follows the observer, tropes for
co-incidence of stillness and movement the vision moves without movement.26 The painted eye,
however still, seems to move, and beholds simultaneously the viewer in the east as well as the one in
the west, beholds all together and each separately. And still, this happens in such a way that every individual observer feels as though he is the sole centre of the icons gaze.27
The all-encompassing gaze of the icon is a metaphor for Gods vision, which, to Cusanus, represents the universal essence of all existence, but at the same time endows each individual with a limitless
capability to develop his own individuality. The vision is namely not absolute only within its omnipresence, but also in the sense of endless potentiality of the individual this vision then, is a sum total of
an infinite number of endlessly different individual visions.28 The notion of Gods vision which encompasses all individual visions was developed in Cusanuss teachings, where Christ is seen as the perfect
human being (homo perfectus) also in the sense that he is the inexhaustible source of any human individuality.29 The absolute vision is eternal and omnipresent, regardless of the fact whether we are aware
of it or not. It becomes actively present for the beholder only in the act of confrontation, i. e. when the
beholder decides to have a look at the image. Cusanus uses this relationship as the starting point for
one of the principal themes both of his philosophy and Christology, namely the question of mans free
will. This topic was widely discussed in the Renaissance, not only by the philosophers but by many gi-


Germ, Christology of Nicholas of Cusa and Christological Iconography in Self-Portraits...

1. Albrecht Drer, Self-Portrait as the Man of Sorrows, lead pencil, 1522, formerly
Kunsthalle, Bremen


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ants of Renaissance art as well. The question is needless to say immanent to any artistic genius, and
therefore ideas found in Leonardo or Drer dont come as a surprise. But it should be remembered that
truly great, revolutionary words on human free will had been written some half a century earlier by the
Cardinal of Cusa.30
The Cusan takes human free will for granted.31 The notion of mans free will arises from the very
foundations of his philosophical system. It has ontological value and plays an important part in the understanding of Redemption in Christ. In it coincide the universal (absolute, limitless, infinite) and the
individual (relative, limited, finite) Christ approaches man as equal and any future relationship between the two is left, according to Cusanus, to mans free will: Per me igitur stat non per te Domine 32.
The revolutionary understanding of the relationship between the Christian and Christ, as proposed by Cusanus, left an important imprint on the development of Christian humanism and the Renaissance concept of dignitas hominis. Cusanuss Christology and anthropology are inextriccably intertwined because, to him, Christ is God and the perfect human at the same time. In his divine nature he is
God, but as human he is the most perfect embodiment of the human nature in te natura humana
est perfectissima et exemplari suo coniunctissima, says Cusanus.33 Christ incorporates summa et perfectissima humanitas postquam humanitas in summo gradu et omni plenitudine aliter esse non potuit nisi
in divina Filii persona. 34 Christ is the mediator between God the Father and man in the gnoseological
sense as well. Through him the unfathomable divine essence comes closer to the limitations of human
recognition, i. e. only through Christ can our mind truly think God and find its way to Him.35 Christ is the
revelation of God the Father, completion of the Creation and the most perfect image of His Father.36 At
the same time Christ the mediator reveals himself to every individual in his own way, walks lovingly towards each man, as if his divine love was directed at him only and at nobody else in the world.37
The intimate relationship between Christ and man is the most transparent in words Cusanus puts
into Christs mouth: ... sis tu tuus et ego ero tuus. 38 In terms of the iconography of Drers Self-Portrait it
is of special importance to note that Cusanus finds the essence of this relationship in the unique quality
of the Holy Face, of which he says with elation: O Domine quam admirabilis est facies tua, quam si iuvenus
concipere vellet iuvenilem fingeret et vir virilem et senex senilem. Quis hoc unicum exemplar verissimum et
adaequatissimum omnium facierum ita omnium et singulorum et ita perfectissime cuiuslibet quasi nulius
alterius concipere posest? 39 Consequently everyone who devotedly seeks the true image of God will
find it only to realise it is the mirror image of himself, i.e. he will behold God in his own image: Quando
igitur tu Deus meus occuris mihi quasi prima materia formabilis quia respicis formam cuiuslibet et intuentis,
tunc me elevas et videam, quomodo intuens te non dat tibi formam, sed in te intuentur se, quia a te recipit id,
quod est. Et ita id, quod videris ab intuente recipere, hoc donas, quasi sis speculum aeternitatis vivum, quod
est forma formarum. In quod speculum dum quis respicit, videt formam suam in forma formarum, quae est
speculum. 40
In Cusanuss metaphor the true image of God vera icon is invested with the qualities of a mirror. Gods absolute vision is a place where see and be seen coincide, and, metaphorically, so do the
seer and the seen. In this consists the precise quality of Drers Self-Portrait. The illusion of the gaze
stepping out of the frame of the painting turns the image itself into the subject beholding the viewer.
The viewer thus becomes the object of the image, and in this way the categories subject/object merge
metaphorically. Since the panel is a self-portrait as well as the image of Christ, it therefore becomes a
pictorial realisation of Cusanuss argument that in Christs true image every viewer finds a reflection of


Germ, Christology of Nicholas of Cusa and Christological Iconography in Self-Portraits...

2. Albrecht Drer, The Suffering Christ, charcoal, 1503, British Museum, London


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3. Albrecht Drer, Nude Self-Portrait, pen and

brush, c. 1503, Staatliche Kunstsammlung,

5. Albrecht Drer, Self-Portrait in a Fur-Collared Robe, oil on

lime panel, 1500, Alte Pinakothek, Munich

4. Albrecht Drer, Sudarium of St. Veronica Supported by two Angels,

engraving, 1513, British Museum, London


Germ, Christology of Nicholas of Cusa and Christological Iconography in Self-Portraits...

his own face. According to the Cardinal the true image of Christ vera icon Christi is bound to be a selfportrait of the viewer. The final consequence of this argument is that the painter who wishes to capture
Christs face necessarily has to paint a self-portrait.
Another aspect significant for the understanding of the iconography of Christomorphic self-portraiture is the contemporary concept of beauty. Cusanus and Drer both link the concept of beauty
with their idea of Christ. To Cusanus (as indeed to many theologians before him) the idea of beauty is
self-evidently connected with the understanding of God i. e. Christ, who is the absolute beauty and the
source of every possible sensual recognition of beauty.41 In the framework of this paper it is especially
interesting that Cusanus speculates on beauty in a way a painter would and uses visual metaphors to illustrate his argument. He describes Christ as the only true self-portrait of God, whereas the human spirit
represents the image of Christ. And the more perfect the likeness with Christ, the nobler the human
spirit.42 The description of the Omnivoyant is linked to the theme of Christs perfect beauty: et omnis
pulchritudo, quae concipi potest, minor est pulchritudine faciei tuae. Omnes facies pulchritudinem habent et
non sunt ipsa pulchritudo. Tua autem facies Domine habet pulchritudinem et hoc habere est esse. Est igitur
ipsa pulchritudo absoluta, quae est forma dans esse omni formae pulchrae. 43 The notion of Christs beauty
finds ample space in De Visione Dei and particularly in De Docta Ignorantia where Cusanus speaks explicitly of Christs beauty and perfection of His body.44
The search for beauty for both Drer and Cusanus means discovering the divine essence in all
things created. Research and imitation of nature according to Drer45 lead to greater knowledge of its
beauty and therefore of the beauty of its Creator.46 The same goes for human beauty. Its ideal exemplar
needs to be found in nature in the manifold beauty of the infinite number of individuals. The original
model was, according to Drer, set with Adam, and then lost again with his fall, or to be more precise,
dispersed in numberless multitude of human race.47 Perfect human beauty was revived once more only
in the image of Christ as the new Adam. In Christ the perfection of his spiritual nature merges with the
perfection of his human body. He is the absolute beauty incorporated in human body, an idea evident
also in Drers famous comparison between Christ and Apollo.48
In the 1500 Self-Portrait Drers deep faith in Christs perfect beauty is expressed in terms of the
contemporary theories of beauty he used the canon of ideal proportions, based on the principles of
harmony, and a composition based on the three most perfect geometric figures: the circle, square and
equilateral triangle. The doctrine of harmony, symmetry and numerical proportions which rules over
the aesthetic canon of Renaissance art was developed both in theory and practice by Leon Battista
Alberti who had a decisive influence on the younger generation. (Platonic philosophy undoubtedly
exercised an important influence on his theory, but so did his contemporary Nicholas of Cusa.49) For
Cusanus harmony and number have a distinct ontological role.50 Number, proportion, symmetry, order,
and harmony are all inseparable categories of beauty, which as absolute beauty has its origin in Gods
mind.51 The Neo-Platonic concept of number and harmony, so vividly modernised by Cusanus, is reflected in Drers work as well. Symmetry and proportion are his basic visual principles and in his writings he
explicitly stresses their importance.52
In the analysis of the Christomorphic Self-Portrait the aesthetic component of the elementary geometric forms should be taken into account as well.53 The prominent role of geometric forms in Cusanuss
philosophy arises from his premise that they are closest to the ideal forms underlying the structure of the
Universe and can therefore help the mind in its effort to grasp the essence of things. His philosophical


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arguments in De Docta Ignorantia are illustrated with the aid of mathematical principles and geometric
forms which thus take on a new symbolic dimension. The circle represents God in his omnipresence. The
square symbolises the world and man, it is a symbolic imago mundi as well as a sign for mundus parvus
(Cusanuss paraphrase for man). Examples of this kind are numerous and well-known but it is perhaps
noteworthy to underline the role of equilateral triangle which Cusanus uses as a symbol of Christ.54
According to the established tradition the triangle symbolises the Holy Trinity but in Cusanuss
philosophy this imagery concentrates in particular on the three Godly entities in one, and the relation
between one and many. In the definition of these relations Cusanus foregrounds the specific role of
triangle as mediator, i. e. the primary geometric form which generates all other polygons. In this way
it mediates symbolically between one and many, between God and man, or rather God and the entire
Creation.55 This specific function attributed to triangle is in accordance with the role of Christ, the only
mediator between God and man. It also points to the double role of Christs nature which is, like triangle
in the world of geometry, a link between two worlds: the physical (triangle as the primary geometric
form defines the plane, i. e. transition into the material) and the metaphysical (a point as the abstract,
immaterial symbol of God). The meticulous application of the three primary geometric forms in the
scheme of the 1500 Self-Portrait is by no means accidental and proves that the painter was well aware
of their importance.
When Drer was painting Self-Portrait in a Fur-Collared Robe he was in the midst of an optimistic
period, and he believed that the essence of beauty can be approached best by measure and perfect
proportions. Even though he kept stressing that he didnt really know what constitutes a measure of
beauty, he never renounced the importance of mathematical knowledge in defining it; a painter can
only reach and capture beauty through mathematics.56 So the Christomorphic Self-Portrait allows us to
observe the exuberant proud optimism of a young artist who believes that he can capture and re-create, through usage of mathematical principles, what once used to be arranged by measure and number
and weight, and can thus with his artistic endeavour conform himself to the Creator.57 It is worth noting
that the idea of an artist as alter Deus (which was to become a hallmark of Renaissance art) was developed by Cusanus, to whom creative human spirit is an imago viva creatoris.58
However, the topos of the artist as alter Deus needs to be studied from another point of view as
well, namely that of the work of art. In his sermon no. 251 (on the occasion of All Saints Day in 1456 at
Brixen) Cusanus uses one of his famous God-painter metaphors in order to explain the relation God
Christ man in a most imaginative way. The metaphor represents God the Father painting his self-portrait with the aid of a mirror which reflects Gods image. The reflection in the mirror is the image of Christ,
explains Cusanus, and the self-portrait the image of man viva similitudo Dei with the unique capacity
to conform to his Exemplar to the greatest possible degree.59 The clearer and the better he conforms to
his Creator, the nobler he becomes. Hence, the accent is not so much on the actual likeness but on the
active principle of man who wants to conform as closely as possible to his Exemplar.60 To underline this
thought Cusanus uses yet another metaphor: about a painter who has painted two self-portraits. The
first one is more precise and with better likeness, yet feels dead and without a real spark of life, whereas
the other is less precise but alive and capable of endless conformity to its model. For Cusanus there is no
doubt that the second painting is more perfect because it reflects to a greater degree the true art of the
painter. Both metaphors share a common message: the perfection of self-portrait (i. e. man) depends
on its capacity to conform itself to the painter (i. e. Creator). Consequently man can reach his perfection


Germ, Christology of Nicholas of Cusa and Christological Iconography in Self-Portraits...

only through conformitas: in order to succeed he is bound to conform himself to divine Creator whom
he recognises as the reflection in the mirror i. e. Jesus Christ.61
There is no doubt that the iconography of Drers Christ-like Self-Portrait invites various interpretations. However, the unique act of self-portrayal in the figure of Christ seems best understood against
the background of Cusanuss Christology. By describing Christ as homo perfectus and man as Deus humanatus or alter Deus Cusanus emphasizes the close relationship between Christ and man, thus paving the way for the revolutionary humanistic notion of man as (almost) equal to God. Christ is therefore
not only the most perfect man, but he also incorporates the entire humanity, the infinite multitude of
human individualities. In his limitless love Christ approaches each man in the way that suits his purpose
best i. e. by taking the faultless image of the very individual (who in turn resides as exemplar inside
Christ).62 Psychologically, Cusanus links Christs love which is redeeming grace with mans self-love.
Man, who according to his nature loves himself, will love Christ that much more if he recognises himself
in Christs image.63 This theory may seem almost like an apology for the obviously idealised self-portrait
in which a narcissistic element can hardly go unnoticed.64 However, we should discuss both Cusanuss
metaphor and Drers Self-Portrait in proper context: the Cardinals conjecture serves to underline his
basic premise that mans ultimate goal is to recognise himself in Christ and perceive Christ within himself.65 On the other hand Drers self-portraiture, his whole artistic and written opus are without doubt
firm proofs of his creed according to which a painter through his creative process expresses his respect
and thanks to God who had endowed him with the precious talent.66 Though it is impossible to prove
historically that Cusanus was a direct source for Christological iconography of Drers Christomorphic
Self-Portrait, it is nevertheless true that the panel reveals unique understanding of God, very close to the
concept introduced by Nicholas of Cusa.



Christological iconography in Drers self-portraiture has been discussed, albeit briefly, by most of Drer scholars,
although the matter still calls for an in-depth and thorough analysis. Among recent contributions cf.: F. ANZELEWSKY,
Albrecht Drer. Das malerische Werk, Neuausgabe. Berlin, 1991; J. L. KOERNER, The Moment of Self-Portraiture in German Renaissance Art, Chicago/London, 1993; Cf. also G. DIDI-HUBERMAN, Lautre miroir. Autoportrait et mlancolie
christique selon Albrecht Drer, in: Il ritratto e la memoria. Materiali, II. (eds. A. Gentili/P. Morel/C. Cieri Via), Rome, 1993,
p. 207-240; G. WOLF, Schleier und Spiegel. Traditionen des Christusbildes und die Bildkonzepte der Renaissance, Munich,
The drawing is usually cited as Self-Portrait as the Man of Sorrows or Man of Sorrows; there is no doubt, however, it is a
Probably malaria; Cf. E. REBEL, Albrecht Drer. Maler und Humanist, Munich. 1999, p. 476; A. F. EICHLER, Albrecht Drer
(14711528), Kln, 1999, p. 120.
The drawing bears an inscription that reads: Dis 2 angsicht hab ich uch erl[furcht?] gemacht in meinem kranckheit.
Koerner links this drawing explicitly with the question of Christological self-portraiture (also because of the prominetly positioned monogram under the head of the suffering Christ), KOERNER, op. cit., p. 220.
W. SCHMIDT, Die Seitenwunde Christi aufs Drers Weimeier Selbstbildnis, in: Von Macht der Bilder. Beitrge des C.I.H.A.Kolloquiums Kunst und Reformation (ed E. Ullmann), Leipzig. 1983, p. 216-223.
Cf. REBEL, op. cit., p. 148-168; K. H. JRGENS, Neue Forschungen zu dem Mnchener Selbstbildnis des Jahres 1500 von


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Albrecht Drer, Kunsthistorisches Jahrbuch Graz, 19/20 (1983/84), p. 180. The influence of Thomas Kempiss Imitatio
Christi on Drer is best evident in two drawings in British Museum, the first depicting Christ bearing the cross, and the
other a man in a contemporary German attire (Lazar Spengler?) who in a Christ-like manner carries a cross and thus
follows Christs example; Cf. KOERNER, op. cit., p. 76; REBEL, op. cit., p. 327-328. The imagery of Kempiss Imitatio Christi
permeates Drers written legacy as well. He often writes about modelling after Christ and life in Christ in his own
words: noch Christo zleben; Cf. H. RUPPRICH, Drer: Schriftlicher Nachlass, Berlin, 1956/69, I, p. 137.
Cf. i. a: J. K. ROWLANDS, The Graphic Work of Albrecht Drer: An Exhibition of his Prints and Drawings in Commemmoration of the Quincentenary of his Birth, exh. cat., British Museum. London, 1971, p. 181; G. BARTRUM, Albrecht Drer and
his Legacy. The Graphic Work of a Renaissance Artist, Princeton, 2002, p. 82.
Jrgens points to the relation between the 1512 print and the 1500 Christomorphic Self-Portrait; Cf. JRGENS, op. cit.
(Part 3), Kunsthistorisches Jahrbuch Graz, 21 (1985), p. 159.
Moritz Thausing, a Viennese art historian, was the first to notice Drers likeness to Christ; Cf. M. THAUSING, Drer.
Geschichte s. Lebens u. s. Kunst, vol. I-II. Leipzig, 18842, vol. II, p. 107.
For most recent studies cf: Ch. D. CUTTLER, Undercurrents in Drers 1500 Self-Portrait, Pantheon, 50 (1992), p. 24-27;
KOERNER, op. cit.; R. PREIMESBERGER, proprijs sic effingebam coloribus. Zu Drers Selbstbildnis von 1500, in: The
Holy Face and the Paradox of Representation (eds. H. Kessler/ G. Wolf ), Bologna, 1998, p. 279-300; E. FILIPPI, Dal
rispecchiamento alla riflessione. Cusano e Venezia nellevoluzione della teoria artistica di Albrecht Drer, in: Venezia
Cinquecento, X, 21 (2002), p. 25-53.
F. WINZINGER, Drers Mnchener Selbstbildnis, in: Zeitschrift fr Kunstwissenschaft, 8, 1954, p. 43-64. Eberhard
Hempel also discussed Cusanuss influence on Drer a year earlier: E. HEMPEL, Nikolaus von Kues in seinen Beziehungen zur bildenden Kunst, in: Berichte ber die Verhandlungen der schsischen Akademie der Wissenschaften zu
Leipzig, Phil.-hist. Klasse 100, 3, Berlin 1953, p. 38-41.
Drer scholars predominantly quote two interpretations of the 1500 panel: the first by Panofsky who argues the
influence of Thomas Kempiss Imitatio Christi (E. PANOFSKY, The Life and Art of Albrecht Drer, Princeton, 1955, p. 43;
cf. also: R. H. BAINTON, Drer and Luther as the Man of Sorrows, in: Art Bulletin, 29, 1947, p. 269-272; D. de CHAPEAUROUGE, Theomorphe Portrts der Neuzeit, in: Vierteljahrschr. f. Literaturwiss, 42, 1968, p. 262-302; E. REBEL, op. cit., p.
167), and the second by Winzinger who stresses the influence of Cusanus (N. HEROLD, Bild der Wahrheit Wahrheit
des Bildes. Zur Deutung des Blicks aus dem Bild in der Cusanischen Schrift De visione Dei, in: Wahrheit und Begrndung ( eds. V. Gerhard and N. Herold), Wrzburg, 1985, p. 79-81; G. WOLF, Toccar con gli occhi, Zu Konstellationen und
Konzeptionen von Bild und Wirklichkeit in spten Quattrocento, in: Kunstlerischen Austausch, Akten des XXVIII Kongresses fr Kunstgeschichte, 1992, vol. II, Berlin 1993, p. 444-445; E. FILIPPI, op. cit. Among other theories we should
mention the one by Daniel Hess who acknowledges Cusanuss influence yet finds an even stronger one in the
franciscan monk Fridolin Stephan and his booklet Schatzbehalter (Nuremberg, 1491), and develops an interpretation
of Drer as the new Appelles. (D. HESS, Drers Selbstbildnis von 1500. Alter Deus oder Neuer Apelles?, in: Mitteilungen des Vereins fr Geschichte des Stadt Nrnberg, 77, 1990, p. 63-90). Fedja Anzelewsky, one of the leading Drer
scholars finds Cusanus a probable influence but mentions Marsilio Ficino and Giovanni Pico della Mirandola as
equally important sources (F. ANZELEWSKY, Das Selbstbildnis von 1500, in: Drer-Studien, Berlin 1983, p. 90-100).
Nicholas of Cusa was much more than just the leading theologian and philosopher of his time. As a close collaborator of three popes Eugene IV (1431-1447), Nicholas V (1447-1455) and Pius II (1458-1464) he travelled widely across
Europe on many diplomatic missions. He was a good acquaintance of the greatest humanists of the 15th century:
Ambrogio Traversari, Franceso Filelfo and Poggio Bracciolini. He corresponded with Lorenzo Valla and intervened on
his behalf with the Pope Nicholas V. He kept in contact with many other illustrious names of that time. Bernhard von
Waging, the prior of St. Quirinus monastery by Tegernsee, praised the Cardinals writings as early as mid-15th century
and Cusanus himself writes of abundant fruit that his teachings bear in Italy. Well before the end of the 15th century
his work reverberated outside Italy as well: in 1488 the majority of his writings was published in Strasbourg, and in
1514 Jacques Lefvre dEtaples published his entire opus (Nicolai Cusae Cardinalis Opera, Parisiis 1514). Bibliography
dealing with Cusanuss contacts with the Renaissance humanists and his influence on Renaissance culture is extremely voluminous and can be found on the website of the Cusanus Institute at the University of Trier: www.uni-trier.

Germ, Christology of Nicholas of Cusa and Christological Iconography in Self-Portraits...






They were both thoroughly acquainted with Cusanuss work. Celtis especially was instrumental in popularisation
of the Cusan in humanist circles. (When, in the jubilee year 1500, he published a monumental edition of his collected works, Celtis published Cusanuss De non aliud along with his own Carmen Seculare!) Cf: D. WUTTKE, Drer
und Celtis. Von der Bedeutung des Jahres 1500 fr den deutschen Humanismus: Jahrhundertfeier als symbolische Form,
in: The Journal of Medieval and Renaissance Studies, 10, 1980, p. 73-129. See also: H. RUPPRICH, Drer und Pirckheimer. Geschichte einer Freundschaft, in: Albrecht Drers Umwelt (Nrnberger Forschungen, 15), Nuremberg, 1971;
J. BIAOSTOCKI, Drer and Humanists, in: Bulletin of Society for Renaissance Studies 4, no. 2 (1986/87), p. 16-29; E.
REBEL, op. cit., p. 125-144; S. MEIER-OESER, Die Cusanus-Rezeption im deutschen Renaissancehumanismus, in: Nicolaus
Cusanus zwischen Deutschland und Italien. Beitrge eines deutsch-italienischen Symposions in der Villa Vigoni vom
28.3.-1.4. 2001 (ed M. Thurner), Berlin, 2002, p. 617-632.
Cf. K. H. KANDLER, Nikolaus von Kues: Denker zwischen Mittelalter und Neuzeit, Gttingen, 1995, p. 122.
Cf. H. GESTRICH, Nikolaus von Kues 1401-1464, Der grosse Denker an der Schwelle des Mittelalters zur Neuzeit, Mainz,
1990, p. 99.
L. JUSTI, Konstruierte Figuren und Kpfe unter der Werken Albrecht Drers, Leipzig, 1902, p. 49
Such construction has a recognisable iconographic background consisting of three basic motifs: the medieval
aesthetic canon of harmonic proportions as the conditio sine qua non, the notion of Christs perfect beauty and the
symbolism of the circle, square and equilateral triangle linked to the Christological iconography. Winzinger stresses
though that the scheme isnt Drers invention since it had already been well known in the Netherlandish painting
of the 15th century. One comes across a practically identical scheme in the work of Jan van Eyck (1438, Christ, Gemldegalerie Berlin).
The primary source for Cusanuss Christology remains Rudolf Haubsts Die Christologie des Nikolaus von Kues,
Freiburg 1956. For newer contributions on the Cusans anthropology and humanism cf. also: P. M. WATTS, Nicolaus
Cusanus: A Fifteenth-Century Vision of Man, Studies in the History of Christian Thought, 30, Leiden, 1982; K. BORMANN,
Nikolaus von Kues: Der Mensch als zweiter Gott, Trier, 1999; H. SCHWAETZER, Sei du das, was du willst. Die christozentrische Antrophologie der Freiheit in Sermo CCXXXIX des Nikolaus von Kues, in: Trier Theologische Zeischrift, 110, 2001,
p. 319-332; idem, Viva imago Dei. berlegungen zum Ursprung eines anthropologischen Grundprinzips bei Nicolaus Cusanus, in: Spiegel und Portrt. Zur Bedeutung zweier zentraler Bilder im Werk des Nikolaus von Kues (eds. I. Bocken
and H. Schwaetzer), Maastricht, 2005, p. 113-132; K. REINHARDT, Jesus Christus. Herz der cusanischen Theologie, in:
Mitteilungen und Forschungsbeitrge der Cusanus-Gesellschaft 28, 2003, p. 165-187.
Cusanus uses the term christiformitas or christiformis 83 times! To him it expresses mans capability to become viva
similitudo Dei by following Christ. In De docta ignorantia he says, for example: Magna est fidei vis, quae hominem
Christiformem efficit De docta ignorantia, III, p. 500. There is, however, a significant difference between Cusanuss
understanding of Christ-likeness (christifomitas) and conformitas Christi as understood by Franciscan mysticism (as
well as the one presented in Kempiss Imitatio Christi) in his metaphors Cusanus develops a clear notion of a visual
likeness whereas the Franciscans and Thomas Kempis speak only of a spiritual conformity to Christ (especially
through identification with the Passion) without any visual connotations whatsoever.
The method of visual metaphors based on Platonic philosophy is that much more self-evident in Cusanus because
he allocates the sight the most excellent position of all senses and links it most directly with the spirit and the
intellect. He often uses the term intellectual vision (visio intellectualis) as the highest level of cognition. This kind of
vision (in which man recognises himself as the image of God) is, according to Cusanus, the essence of man. It should
be added that in this context Cusanus understands the intellectual vision, the contemplation of God, as the most
perfect affiliation with God (filiatio) which is at the same time likeness (similitudo) and deification (deificatio): Ego
autem, ut in summa dicam, non aliud filiationem dei quam deificationem, quae et theosis graece dicitur aestimandum
iudico. Theosim vero tu ipse nosti ultimitatem perfectionis existere, quae et notitia dei et verbi seu visio intuitiva vocitatur.
De filiatione dei, p. 610. The ultimate goal of a mans life is to become aware of the fact that our spirit functions as an
image of Gods mind: Quietatur igitur studium vitae et perfectionis atquae omnis motus intellectus, quando se comperit
in ea regione esse, ubi est magister omnium operum operabilium, scilicet filius Dei, verbum illud, per quod caeli formati
sunt et omnis creatura, et se similem illi. Op. cit. p. 616. Cf. i. a: K. KREMER, Grsse und Grenzen der menschlichen Vernunft (intellectus) nach Cusanus, in: Nicholas of Cusa. A medieval Thinker for the Modern Age (ed. K. Yamaki), Rich-


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mond, Surrey 2002, p. 11. Needless to add that sight to Drer, too, is the noblest of senses; interestingly enough, in
one of his notes Drer uses almost the same mirror metaphor as Cusanus (cf. RUPPRICH, II, p. 112-113).
To understand Cusanuss Christology it is of key importance to be familiar with his masterpiece De docta ignorantia
(in particular book three, entirely dedicated to Christ), the dialogue De posest, treatises De filiatione Dei, De ludo
globi, De aequalitate, De venatione sapientiae, Idiota de mente, De pace fidei and some of his sermons. Of course, bits
and pieces of his Christological teachings are spread all over his work. Topically related metaphors of portrait and/or
mirror from De visione Dei feature also in Idiota de mente (p. 592) in sermons (Sermo CCLI) and letters (Letter to Albergati); cf. notes no. 60 and 61.
If I strive to convey you by human means unto divine things, then I must do this through a likeness. Now, among human
works I have not found an image more suitable to our purpose than the image of someone omnivoyant, so that his face,
through subtle pictorial artistry, is such that it seems to behold everything around it. De visione Dei, Praefatio, p. 94. (All
quotations and pagination are from the bilingual edition of Cusanuss writings: Nikolaus von Kues, Philosophisch-theologische Schriften (ed. L. Gabriel), Wien 1964. For English quotations the translation by Jasper Hopkins was consulted:
J. HOPKINS, Complete Philosophical And Theological Treatises Of Nicholas Of Cusa, The Arthur J. Banning Press, Minneapolis, Minn. 2001.)
Harum etsi multae reperiantur optime pictae uti illa sagittariae in foro Nurembergensi et Bruxellis Rogeri maximi pictoris
in pretiossisima tabula, quae in praetorio habetur et Confluentiae in capella mea Veronicae et Brixinae in castro angeli
arma ecclesiae tenentis et multae aliae undique. Ne tamen deficiatis in praxi, quae sensibilem talem exigit figuram, quam
habere potui caritati vestrae mitto tabellam figuram cuncta videntis tenentem, quam iconam Dei apello. De visione Dei,
Praefatio, p. 94-96.
For interpretation of De visione Dei cf: W. BEIERWALTES: Visio absoluta: Reflexion als Grundzug des gttlichen Prinzips
bei Cusanus, in: Sitzungsberichte der Heidelberger Akademie der Wissenschaften, Phil.-hist. Klasse, 1, 1978; idem.,
Visio facialis: Sehen in Angesicht. Zur Coincidenz des endlichen und unendlichen Blick bei Cusanus, in: Sitzungsberichte
der Bayerischen Akademie der Wissenschaften, Phil.- hist. Klasse 1, Mnchen 1988; M. de CERTEAU, Nicholas de Cues:
Le secret dun regard, in: Traverses, 30/31 (1984), p. 70-85. For recent contributions dealing with the metaphor of
Gods vision, theology of the image, and reverberations in painting cf: S. TRITZ, Ad imaginem et similitudinem. Bildtheologie, Malereitheorie und Kunstpraxis zur Zeit des Nikolaus von Kues, in: Spiegel und Portrt. Zur Bedeutung zweier
zentraler Bilder im Werk des Nikolaus von Kues (eds. I. Bocken and H. Schwaetzer), Maastricht, 2005, p. 197-130.
Etsi figendo obtutum in iconam ambulabit de occasu ad orientem comperiet continue visum iconae secum pergere, etsi
de oriente revertetur ad occasum similiter eum non deseret. Et admirabitur quomodo immobiliter movebatur neque poterit imaginatio capere, quod cum aliquo alio sibi contrario moto obviante similiter moveatur. De visione Dei, Praefatio,
p. 96.
Et dum attenderit, quomodo visus ille nullum deserit videt, quod ita diligenter curam agit cuiuslibet quasi de solo eo, qui
experitur se videri et nullo alio curet adeo quod etiam concipi nequeat per unum quem respicit quod curam alterius agat.
Ibid., I, p. 98.
Cusanus uses the metaphor as exposition for one of his most convincing treatises on human individuality and
humanistic understanding of dignitas hominis. Cf: Ch. HUMMEL, Nicolaus Cusanus. Das Individualittsprinzip in seiner
Philosophie, Stuttgart, 1961.
Cusanus discusses this in different treatises. The most consise presentation can be found in De beryllo: Videre
igitur poteris per beryllum principium modo saepe dicto, et quam divinae sint omnes species ex substantiali seu perfecta
aeternae rationis similitudine, ac quamodo in ipsis creator intellectus se manifestat, quodque ipsa species sit verbum seu
intento ditas omnis individui. De beryllo, XXXV, p. 80. Cf. also: Induit igitur in Christo humana natura immortilitatem,
qui et primitiae dormientum. Non est autem nisi una indivisibilis humanita et omnium hominum specifica essentia, per
quam omnes particulares homines sunt homines inter se numeraliter distincti, ita ut eadem etiam humanitas sit Christi et
omnium hominum, distincione numerali individuorum inconfusa remanente. De docta ignorantia, III, p. 473.
As the most important philosophical source for the question of human free will in Renaissance humanism art
historians most frequently quote Giovanni Pico della Mirandola, although Nicholas of Cusa had already made an
in-depth analysis of the phenomenon at least forty years before the count of Mirandola. Their views, however, are in
many points so similar that some of the more sceptical scholars speak of co-incidence of ideas (cf: H. SCHWAETZER,

Germ, Christology of Nicholas of Cusa and Christological Iconography in Self-Portraits...







Semen universale. Die Antrophologie bei Nikolaus von Kues und G. Pico della Mirandola, in: Nicolaus Cusanus zwischen
Deutschland und Italien. Beitrge eines deutsch-italienischen Symposions in der Villa Vigoni vom 28.3.-1.4. 2001.
(ed. M. Thurner), Berlin, 2002, p. 555-574). Many scholars, on the other hand, are in favour of the theory that Mirandola was familiar with the Cusans work. Cf. i. a.: K. FLASCH, Nikolaus von Kues und Pico della Mirandola, in: Mitteilungen und Forschungsbeitrge der Cusanus-Gesellschaft, 14 (1980), p. 113-120; H. REINHARDT, Freiheit zu Gott. Der
Grundgedanke des Systematikers Giovanni Pico della Mirandola (14631496), Weinheim, 1989.
Quisque enim homo liberum habet arbitrium, velle scilicet nolle, cognoscens virtutem et vitium, quid honestum, quid
inhonestum, quid iustum, quid iniustum, quid laudabile, quid vituperabile, quid gloriosum, quid scandalosum. Et quod
bonum eligi debeat et malum sperni, habens intra se regem et iudicem horum De ludo globi, I, p. 278-280. Cf. also:
Mens enim humana, quae est imago mentis absolutae, humaniter libera omnibus rebus in suo conceptu terminos
ponit sicut vult, et quidquid facere proponit, intra se prius determinavit, et est omnium operum suorum terminus. De
docta ignorantia, I, p. 128.
Cf. the whole sentence: O Domine, suavitas omnis dulcedinis posuisti in libertate mea, ut sim, si voluero mei ipsius. Hinc
nisi sim mei ipsius tu non es meus. Necessitares enim libertatem, cum tu non possis esse meus nisi et ego sim mei ipsius et
quia hoc posuisti in libertate mea, non me necessitas, sed expectas, ut ego eligam mei ipsius esse. Per me igitur stat non
per te Domine, qui non contrahis bonitatem tuam maximam, sed largissime effundis in omnes capaces. De visione Dei,
VII, p. 120. For the understanding of free will cf. chapter IV as well. In the philosophical sense this is unification which
means transgression of all contradictions; in the religious sense it means the full acceptance of Gods limitless grace:
Dedisti mihi, Domine, esse et id ipsum tale, quod se potest gratiae et bonitatis tuae continue magis capax reddere. Et
haec vis, quam a te habeo, in qua virtutis omnipotentiae tuae vivam imaginem teneo, est libera voluntas, per quam possum aut ampliare aut restingere capacitatem gratiae tuae. Ibid., IV, p. 104-106.
because in You the human nature is most perfect and is most closely conjoined to its Exemplar. De visione Dei, XX, p.
the supreme and most perfect humanity, for the humanity could not have existed in the supreme degree and in
complete fullness otherwise than in the divine person of the Son. De docta ignorantia III, p. 446. See also: Talia quidem et
alibi plura perhibentur sanctorum de eo testimonia, quoniam ipse Deus et homo; in quo ipsa humanitas in ipsa divinitate
Verbo unita est, ut non in se, sed in ipso subsisteret, postquam humanitas in summo gradu et omni plenitudine aliter esse
non potuit nisi in divini Filii persona Et ita in Iesu, qui sic est aequalitas omnia essendi, tamquam in Filio in divinis, qui est
media persona, Pater aeternus et sanctus Spiritus exixtunt, et onia ut in Verbo, et omnis creatura in ipsa humanitate summa
et perfectissima universaliter omnia creabilia complicanti, ut sit omnis plenitudo ipsum inhabitans. De docta ignorantia,
III, p. 446.
non posse te patrem intelligere nisi in filio tuo, qui est intelligibilis mediator, et quod te intelligere est tibi uniri. De
visione Dei, XIX, p. 182.
Neque adhuc Domine Deus sine Iesu filio tuo, quem prae consortibus suis nixisti qui Christus est, complementum operis
tui perfecises. In cuius intellectu quiescit perfectio creabilis naturae, nam est ultima et perfectissima immultiplicabilis
Dei similitudo. Et intellectuales sunt illo spiritu mediante similitudines. Et quanto perfectiores, tanto huic similiores. De
visione Dei, XXV, p. 216.
Nequaquam Domine me concipere sinis quacumque imaginatione, quod tu Domine aliud a me plus me diligas, cum me
solum visus tuus non deserat. De visione Dei, IV, p. 104.
Et quamodo dabis tu te mihi si non paritet dederis mihi caelum et terram et omnia, quae in eis sunt? Immo quamodo
dabis tu te mihi si etiam me ipsum non dederis mihi? Et cum sic in silentio contemplationis quiesco tu Domine intra praecordia mea respondes dicens: sis tu tuus et ego ero tuus. De visione Dei, VII, p. 120. It is interesting to note the Cusans
thought that the most human part of man participates in the greatest measure possible in the divine nature. in
ipsa suprema humanitatis tuae natura divinitatem ipsam supreme participas De coniecturis, II, p. 198. Man is therefore closest to Christ precisely in his humanity.
O Lord, how admirable is Your Face! If a youth wished to conceive it, he would envision it as youthful; if an adult [wished
to conceive it, he would envision it as] adult; and someone elderly [would envision it as] elderly. Who could conceive of this
unique, most true, and most adequate Exemplar of all faces? the Exemplar of each and every face and, yet, so perfectly the
Exemplar of each that, as it were, it is not the Exemplar of any other. De visione Dei, VI, p. 114.


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Therefore, my God, when You seem to me as if You were formable prime matter, because You receive the form of each one
who looks unto You, You elevate me, so that I discern the following: viz., that the one who looks unto You does not bestow
form upon You; rather, he beholds himself in You, because he receives from You that which he is. And so, that which You
seem to receive from the one who looks unto You this You bestow, as if You were a living Mirror-of-eternity, which is the
Form of forms. When someone looks into this Mirror, he sees his own form in the Form of forms, which the Mirror is. De
visione Dei, XV, p. 160. Cf. also a similar thought from De venatione sapientiae: Unde, cum cognitio sit assimilatio, reperit
omnia in se ipso ut in speculo vivio vita intellectuali. Qui in se ipsum respiciens cuncta in seipso assimilata videt. Et haec
assimilatio est imago viva creatoris et omnium. Cum autem sit viva et intellectualis Dei imago, qui Deus non est aliud ab
aliquo, ideo cum in se intrat et sciat se talem esse imaginem, quale est suum exemplar in se speculatur. De venatione sapientiae, XVII, p. 78.
Cf. just one of the instances: Nam si dico ex pulchritudine creaturarum Deum pulchrum et scio quod Deus est ita pulcher,
quod pulchritudo, quae est omne id, quod esse potest, scio nihil pulchri totius mundi deficere Deo, ac quod omnis quae potest creari pulchritudo, non est nisi quaedam similitudo improportionalis ad illam, quae actu est omnis essendi possibilitas
pulchritudinis, quae non potest esse aliter quam est, cum sit id, quod esse potest. Trialogus de possest, p. 280. For a clearer
notion of the relation God beauty beautiful cf. the excerpt from the sermon: pulchritudo et pulchrum idem sunt
in deo, nam pulchritudo in deo est prima et summa: ex ea emanat natura pulchritudinis in omnibus pulchris quae est forma
pulchrorum, facit enim omnia pulchra sicut albedo alba Tota pulchra, Editio Parisiis, fol. 139v. Here Cusanus refers to
the medieval tradition according to which the biblical interpreters used the psalmists words You are the most excellent of men (Ps 44, 3) as the foretelling of the coming of Christ.
nam est (sc. Christi) ultima et perfectissima immultiplicabilis Dei similitudo. Et non potest esse nisi una suprema talis.
Omnes autem alii spiritus intellectuales sunt illo spirito mediante similitudines. Et quanto perfectores, tanto huic similior.
De visione Dei, XXV, p. 216.
and all beauty that can be conceived is less than the beauty of Your Face. All faces have beauty; but they are not beauty
itself. But Your Face, O Lord, has beauty, and this having is being. Hence, Your Face is Absolute Beauty, which is the Form that
gives being to every beautiful form. De visione Dei, VI, p. 114.
Iesus noster, in quo omnes thesauri scientiae et sapientiae, etiam dum in mundo apparuit, absconditi fuerunt quasi lux in
tenebris, ad hunc finem eminentissime intellectualis naturae corpus aptissimum atque perfectissimum, ut etiam a sanctissimis testibus suae conversationis fertur, creditur habuisse. De docta ignorantia, III, 5, p. 450
Cf. e. g.: Dann warhaftig steckt die kunst in der natur, wer sie heraus kan reyssenn, der hat sie. RUPPRICH, III, p. 195.
In Drers words : So, je mehrer der natur vnnd dem lebnn gemess gepracht, je mer der volkumeheitt zu augen ettwos
der gotthait gleich werden geachtet. RUPPRICH, II, p. 135.
Cf.: Einmall hat der schopfer dye menschen gemacht, wie sie mssen sein, vnd jch halt, das die recht wolgestalt vnd hbschheit vnder dem haffen aller menschen begriffen sey. RUPPRICH, III, p. 272.
Dan zw gleicher weis, wy sy dy schnsten gestalt eines menschen haben zu gemessen jrem ab got Abblo, also wollen wyr
dy selb mos prawchen zu Crysto dem herren, der der schnste aller welt ist. RUPPRICH, II, p. 104.
For Cusanuss influence on Alberti cf: G. SANTINELLO, Niccol Cusano e Leon Battista Alberti: pensieri sul bello e sull
arte, in: Leon Battista Alberti, Una visione estetica del mondo e della vita, Florence, 1962; K. FLASCH, Niccol Cusano
e Leon Battista Alberti, in: Leon Battista Alberti e il Quattrocento. Studi in onore di C. Grayson e E. Gombrich. Atti del
Convegno internazionale, Mantua, 29.31. ottobre 1998, (ed. L. Chiavoni), Florence, 2001, p. 371-376; M. GERM, Leon
Battista Alberti, Santa Maria Novella in Florence, and Nicolaus Cusanus, in: Umeni/Art, XLIX/2001, p. 11-18.
Every harmony can be expressed numerically it is based on numerical proportions. So the basis of every harmony
is number: numerus est subiectum proportionis, non enim potest esse proportio sine numero. Idiota de mente, VI, p.
524. More on this theme in other works, notably in De docta ignorantia: Numerus ergo omnia proportionabilia includit. Moreover, number isnt just the basis for every harmony and proportion, it is the primary formative principle of
the whole Creation: Sublato enim numero cessant rerum discretio, ordo, proportio, harmonia atque ipsa entium pluralitas. De docta ignorantia I, 5, p. 208. In number the ontological principle is joined by formative and gnoseological
principles since number represents the ideal paradigm of creation. As Exemplar it is in Gods mind, it is the bearer
of order, symmetry and beauty in Creation, and also the most perfect gnoseological principle:Sic irreprehensibiliter
posse dici conicio primum rerum exemplar in animo conditoris numerum esse. Hoc ostendit delectatio et pulchritudo,

Germ, Christology of Nicholas of Cusa and Christological Iconography in Self-Portraits...










quae omnibus rebus inest, quae in proportione consistit, proportio vero in numero; hinc numerus praecipuum vestigium
ducens in sapientiam. Idiota de mente, VI, p. 528.
Sicut enim in unitate est omnis numerus complicite et in numero omnis proportio et medietas, in proportione omnis
harmonia et ordo et concordantia et ideo omnis pulchritudo quae in ordine et proportione atque concordantia relucet. Ita
cum dicimus deum unum hoc unum est ipsa supersubstantialis unitas quae et pulchritudo in se omnia pulchra complicans. Tota pulchra, fol. 140v
...das dy mass in allen dingen, sittlichen vnd natrlichen, das pest sey, weliche dan auch pey demm aller hochsten angesehen ist, das er alle geschpf in zal, gewicht vnd mass beschaffen hab. RUPPRICH, II, p. 127. This viewpoint features in
different works not only in the famous Vier Bcher von menschlicher Proportion. Drer stresses at the same time that
arithmetics and geometry as basis for the study of proportions are fundamental in the art of painting: Ist keine, dy
der mass mer vnd in manigfltiger weg vnd gestalt notdrfftig ist als dy kunst der malerey, di nit alain begert der geometrei vnd arithmetika vrsprung aller mass (loc. cit.)
Their role had been undisputed even earlier on, as seen in Platos Philebus: for these (i.e. geometric forms) I affirm
to be not only relatively beautiful, like other things, but they are eternally and absolutely beautiful Philebus (transl.
Benjamin Jowett, e-book, Project Gutenberg). Geometry gained a new role in Renaissance philosophy and art history,
and Cusanuns provided its most profound philosophical-theological application.
The symbolism of geometric forms in Cusanuss work is much more complex and should be seen in a wider framework than the one of this paper. For a complete picture it should be treated in a specific context of individual philosophical explication. For a better insight see De Docta Ignorantia. Cf. e. g.: W. BREIDERT, Mathematik und symbolische
Erkenntnis bei Nikolaus von Kues, in: Mitteilungen und Forschungsbeitrge der Cusanus-Gesellschaft 12 (1977), p.
116-126; K. YAMAKI, Die Bedeutung geometrischer Symbole fr das Denken des Nicolaus Cusanus. Eine Untersuchung
am Beispiel der Metamorphose seinre auffasung vom Kreis, in: Das Mathematikverstndnis des Nikolaus von Kues,
Mathematische, Naturwissenschaftliche und Philosophisch-theologische Dimensionen, Akten der Tagung im
Schwbischen Tagungs und Bildungszentrum Kloster Irsee. In: Mitteilungen und Forschungsbeitrge der CusanusGesellschaft 29 (2005).
Omnis enim figura polygonia pro simplicissimo elemento habet triangularem, et illa est minima figura polygonia, qua
minor esse nequit Sicut igitur se habet unum in numeris, ita triangulus in figuris polygoniis. Sicut igitur omnis numerus
resolvitur ad unitatem, ita polygoniae ad triangulum. De docta ignorantia, I, p. 262.
Cf. e. g.: Dann die luegen ist in unser erkantnes, vnd steckt die finsteruns so hart in uns, das auch vnser nach dappen felt.
Welcher aber durch die Geometria sein ding beweyst vnd die gruendlichen warheyt anzeygt, dem sol alle welt glauben.
RUPPRICH, III, p. 293. More in RUPPRICH, II, p. 100-127. Drer even says that mathematics is of crucial importance to
painters and visual arts because one can only master this craft with the use of mathematics and geometry: Ist keine,
dy der mass mer vnd jn manigfeltiger weg vnd gestalt notturfftig ist als dy kunst der maleray, dy mit alain begert der
geometrie vnd arithmetica, ursprung aller mass Ibid., p. 127.
Dan werden wir durch kunst der gottlichen gepildnis destmer vergleicht. RUPPRICH, II, p. 129. An artist is through his
artistic endeavour similar to God, gleichformig geschopf noch got, because within himself he has a limitless power
of creation: ein guter maler ist jnwendig voller vigur. Vnd obs mglich wer, daz er ewig lebte, so het er aus den jnneren
ideen, do van Plato schreibt albey etwas news durch die werck aus tzwgissen. RUPPRICH, III, p. 291.
To Cusanus artistic creation is an expression of human spirit: hominis intellectus in suis variis artibus et ex variis
artium productis, in se unus et invisibilis manens, variae se visibiliter manifestat. Compendium, VIII, p. 710. The ability to
create is the quality which, according to his belief, conforms man to the Creator. hominem esse secundum Deum.
Nam sicut Deus est creator entium realium et naturalium formarum, ita homo rationalium entium et formarum artificialium, quae non sunt nisi sui intellectus similitudines, sicut creaturae Dei divini intellectus similitudines. De beryllo, VI,
p. 8. Cf. V. RFNER, Homo secundus Deus. Eine geistgeschichlitliche Studie zum menschlichen Schpfertum, in: Philosophisches Jahrbuch 63 (1955), p. 248-291. For Drers understanding of artist as alter Deus cf. also the passage where
he speaks of honours bestowed upon artists in the old times: Dann sy [the kings of old] haben die frtrefflichen
knstler reich gemacht vnd wirdig gehalten. Dan sy bedawcht, daz dy hochverstendigen ein geleichheit zu gott hetten, als
man [bei Moses] schrieben fint. RUPPRICH, II, p. 109.
For a detailed explanation of the metaphor cf: I. MANDRELLA, Gott als Portrtmaler in Sermo CCLI, in: Spiegel und


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Portrt. Zur Bedeutung zweier zentraler Bilder im Werk des Nikolaus von Kues (eds. I. Bocken and H. Schwaetzer),
Maastricht, 2005, p. 133-145. Cf. also: G. SANTINELLO, Luomo ad imaginem et similitudinem nel Cusano, in: Doctor
Seraphicus, 37 (1990), p. 85-97.
This viewpoint is unambiguously expressed in the metaphor included in his letter to the Cardinal Albergati: Sicut
si pictor sui ipsius visibilem imaginem dipingit, illa manet ut facta est, sed si foret talis pictor, qui artis suae intellectualis
pingendi intellectualem et invisibilem imaginem facere posset, utique illa imago artis, si perfecta foret imago intellectualis et vivae artis, se ipsam clariorem et similiorem facere posset, quando se suo factori conformaret. Letter to Albergati,
as quoted in: G. von BREDOW, Cusanus-Texte, IV, 3, Heidelberg, 1955, p. 28.
Ecce nostri mentem vim quandam esse habens imaginem artis divinae iam dictae. Unde omnia, quae absolutae arti
verissime insunt, menti nostrae vere ut imagini insunt. Unde mens est creata ab arte creatrice, quasi ars illa se ipsam
creare vellet, et quia immultiplicabilis est infinita ars, quod tunc eius surgat imago, sicut si pictor se ipsum depingere vellet
et, quia ipse non est multiplicabilis, tunc se depingendo orietur eius imago. Et quia imago numquam quantumcumque
perfecta, si perfectior et conformior esse nequit exemplari, adeo perfecta est, sicut quaecumque imperfecta imago, quae
potentiam habet se semper plus et plus sine limitatione inaccessibili exemplari conformandi; in hoc enim infinitatem
imaginis modo, quo potest, imitatur, quasi si pictor duas imagines faceret, quarum una mortua videretur sibi similior,
alia autem minus similis viva, scilicet talis, quae se ipsam ex obiecto eius ad motum incitata conformiorem semper facere
posset, nemo haesitat secundam perfectiorem quasi artem pictoris magis imitantem. Idiota de mente, XIII p. 592. Cf. A.
EISENKOPF, Das Bild des Bildes. Zum Begriff des toten und lebendigen Bildes in Idiota de mente, in: Spiegel und Portrt.
Zur Bedeutung zweier zentraler Bilder im Werk des Nikolaus von Kues (eds. I. Bocken and H. Schwaetzer), Maastricht,
2005, p. 49-74.
Cf.: De visione Dei, XV, p. 160-164.
O inexplicabilis pietas, ofers te intuenti te quasi recipias ab eo esse et conformas te ei, ut eo plus te diligat, quo appares
similis ei. Non enim possumus odisse nos ipsos. Hinc diligimus id, quod esse nostrum participat et comitatur. Et similitudinem nostram amplectimur, quia repreasentamur nos in imagine, in quia nos ipsos amamus. De visione Dei, XV, p. 162
Drers narcissism isnt evident only in his self-portaits, it is well documented also in the writings of his contemporaries. His friend Lorenz Beheim, for instance, mocks Drer in a letter to Willibald Pirckheimer from 19th March 1507 by
saying that he must surely trim his beard and moustache every day in order to make them look so prominent. RUPPRICH, I, 245.
Koerner goes somewhat too far when he says that Nicholas of Cusa sees narcissism as the staring point of any devotion. (KOERNER, op. cit., p. 179.) In Cusanuss Christology a christians self-love is included in the argument according
to which every true believer loves Christ inside himself, and himself within Christ.
S ntz, wan gott wirt dordurch geert, wo man sicht, das gott einer gkreatur sollich vernunft verleicht, der solliche kunst
jn jm hat. RUPPRICH, II, p. 93. On the topic of duality of Drers narcissism and true faith which do not exlude each
other cf. i. a. REBEL, op. cit., p. 164-168.

Germ, Christology of Nicholas of Cusa and Christological Iconography in Self-Portraits...

Martin Germ
Kristologija Nikole Kuzanskog i kristoloka ikonografija u autoportretima Albrechta Drera

Revolucionarna ikonografija autoportretiranja u liku Krista u opusu Albrechta Drera slijedi, ini se, jednostavan uzorak: Drer koristi tradicionalni prikaz Krista i blago ga transformira zamjenjujui lik Krista svojim likom.
Time slika izraava potpuno novu poruku u kojoj se tradicionalno znaenje odabranog kristolokog motiva mijea sa stvarnom predodbom umjetnika o samome sebi. Primjer toga jest izgubljeni rad Autoportret kao ovjek boli
(crte ugljenom olovkom na papiru, 1522., nekada u Kunsthalleu, Bremen). Slikar, koji je u danima svoje bolesti
osjeao jaku bol, poistovjetio se s Kristom i prikazao samog sebe kao ovjeka boli.
Drerova bi grafika Veronikin rubac koji nose dva anela (1513., British Museum, London) mogla predstavljati jo jedan nain mijeanja kristolokog sadraja s autoportretom. Tradicionalni se ikonografski motiv samo
neznatno mijenja na nain da se obiljeja Kristova lica preoblikuju kako bi ono sliilo Drerovu. Ne moemo
govoriti o autoportretu u doslovnom smislu rijei prizor jo uvijek prikazuje Veronikin rubac no umjesto tradicionalnog prikaza Krista pojavljuje se njegova nova vizija koja nalikuje na Drera. ini se da je poistovjeivanje
s Kristovom mukom moglo biti glavnim razlogom zbog kojeg je Drer transformirao Kristove znaajke u vlastite,
iako se ne smije iskljuiti niti mnogo kompleksnija ideja Christomimesisa. Ovakvo razmiljanje dodatno podupire
i najkompleksnija mjeavina kristoloke ikonografije i autoportreta u Drerovu opusu, utjelovljena u njegovu
Autoportretu u krznu (ulje na lipovini, 1500., Alte Pinakothek, Mnchen).
Drerov se Autoportret iz Mnchena interpretirao na razliite naine, no autor se ove studije koncentrirao na mogui utjecaj kristologije Nikole Kuzanskog na Drera. Dugo dokazivana teza o vezi izmeu poznatog
Autoportreta i kuzanske filozofije bila je predmetom mnogih rasprava u posljednjih pedeset godina. No, malo je
novog reeno nakon pionirske analize Franza Winzingera (Albrecht Drers Munchner Selbsbildnis, Zeitschrift fur
Kunstwissenschaft, 1954.), u kojoj on tvrdi da bi se djelo Kuzanskoga, De docta ignorantia, trebalo uzeti u obzir
kao izvor kompleksne ikonografije Drerova Autoportreta. Autori kasnijih studija najee su upuivali na drugo
djelo Nikole Kuzanskog, De visione Dei, i njegovu poznatu metaforu portreta svevideeg Boga. Nema sumnje da
je navedeni tekst od presudne vanosti u potrazi za paralelama izmeu uenja Kuzanskog i ikonografije Drerova
Autoportreta iz Mnchena. Meutim, problem je u tome to povjesniari umjetnosti najee ne zalaze dalje od
samo povrnih usporedbi Kuzanskovih metafora i Drerova Autoportreta, ime ne uspijevaju namaknuti dovoljno
vrste dokaze kako bi podrali tezu.
U potrazi za elementima koji bi otkrili uvjerljive veze s ikonografijom Drerova Autoportreta u krznu, treba
uzeti u obzir De visione Dei u kontekstu cjelokupnog opusa Nikole Kuzanskog, s posebnim naglaskom na njegovoj
kristologiji i ideji ljepote. Nikola Kuzanski i Drer dijele miljenja o mnogim vanim temama: ne samo o ljepoti,
skladu i idealnim proporcijama ve i o vanosti matematikih i geometrijskih likova u likovnim umjetnostima.
ini se jo vanijom zajednika humanistika ideja o ovjeku, umjetniku te vezi izmeu ovjeka i Boga. Kuzanska
uenja o Kristu obiljeavaju novu fazu u povijesti kranskog humanizma: opisujui Krista kao homo perfectus, a
ovjeka kao Deus humanatus ili alter Deus, Kuzanski naglaava blisku vezu izmeu Krista i ovjeka te time utire
put revolucionarnoj humanistikoj ideji o ovjeku kao (gotovo) jednakom Bogu. Isus Krist nije samo Bog i ovjek,
on je summa et perfectissima humanitas, dok je, s druge strane, ovjek imago viva Dei. Veza je tako bliska da e
(prema Kuzanskom) ovjek prave vjere vidjeti Boju sliku kao odraz vlastitog lica kad pokua zamisliti Njegovu
pravu sliku (vera icon Christi). Upravo se o tome radi u Drerovu Autoportretu u krznu: Drer prikazuje sebe kao Krista jer je prava slika Boja zapravo ogledalo u kojem se vlastita obiljeja promatraa odraavaju quasi in speculum
aeternitatis vivum.
Nema sumnje da ikonografija Drerova kristolikog Autoportreta navodi na razliite interpretacije. Meutim, ini se da je jedinstveni in autoportretiranja u liku Krista najbolje razumljiv u kontekstu kuzanske kristologije. Krist je ne samo najsavreniji ovjek ve on takoer utjelovljuje i cjelokupno ovjeanstvo i beskonanu mnoinu ljudskih individualnosti. Krist u svojoj neogranienoj ljubavi pristupa svakom ovjeku na nain koji najbolje
odgovara njegovoj svrsi na primjer, preuzimajui sliku bez mane samog pojedinca (koji zauzvrat postoji u Kristu


IKON, 1-2008

kao primjerak). Psiholoki gledajui, Kuzanski povezuje Kristovu ljubav koja je milost iskupljenja s ovjekovim
samoljubljem. ovjek, koji u skladu s vlastitom naravi voli samoga sebe, voljet e Krista utoliko vie ako prepozna
sebe u Njegovu liku. Ova se teorija ini gotovo kao isprika za oigledno idealizirani autoportret. Meutim, o kuzanskoj metafori i Drerovu Autoportretu trebalo bi se raspravljati u odgovarajuem kontekstu: kardinalovo nagaanje slui kako bi podcrtalo njegovu osnovnu premisu, po kojoj je ovjekov krajnji cilj prepoznati samog sebe u
Kristu i uvidjeti Krista u samome sebi. S druge strane, Drerovo autoportretiranje, njegov cjelokupan umjetniki i
pisani opus bez sumnje su vrsti dokazi njegova uvjerenja prema kojemu slikar kroz svoj kreativni proces izraava
svoje potovanje i zahvalnost Bogu koji ga je obdario dragocjenim talentom. Iako je nemogue povijesno dokazati da je Kuzanski bio direktan izvor za kristoloku ikonografiju Drerova kristolikog Autoportreta, ipak je istina
da slika otkriva jedinstveno razumijevanje Boga, vrlo blisko konceptu koji je predstavio Nikola Kuzanski.

Prijevod s engleskog: Diana Predrag

Primljeno/Received: 19.09.2007.
Izvorni znanstveni rad