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The Cannon (Landscape with Cannon)

The year before Maximillian I died, Dürer spent the summer in Augsburg, returning to Nuremberg later in the fall. Sometime thereafter he portrayed an essential artillery weapon that traces its origins back to the twelfth century. Used for sieges, early cannons were projectiles. By the sixteenth century, cannons were cast in bronze and had developed into giant war machines. Dürer portrayed a cannon known as Die Feldschlange (the Field Snake), which bears Nuremberg’s coat of arms. He shows it on a hillside above his native city, being observed by some Turks. Though the models for these figures likely derived from the Venetian painter Gentile Bellini’s Procession of the True Cross, which Dürer saw during his visits to Venice, the presence of the Turks in his print reminds the viewer of the pervasive Turkish threat during the Renaissance. Perhaps the earliest landscape etching in the history of art, this print was the last and largest of only six iron etchings made by Dürer.

Albrecht Dürer
German, 1471–1528
The Cannon (Landscape with Cannon)
1518
Iron etching on paper
Image: 8 5/8 x 12 9/16 in. (21.9 x w. 31.9 cm)
Sidney and Lois Eskenazi Museum of Art, former Fine Arts Collection, 80.70.1