Frederick the Wise, Elector of Saxony, 1524
engraving on laid paper
19.2 x 12.7 cm
National Gallery of Canada (no. 2922)
Frederick the Wise (1463–1525) ruled as Saxony’s representative or “elector” to the Holy Roman Empire from 1486. Sympathetic to the ideals of the Reformation, he ensured the protection of Martin Luther after the Diet of Worms in 1521. One of Dürer’s most important patrons, Frederick commissioned from the artist, among other works, the magnificent altarpiece "The Adoration of the Magi" (now in Florence) of 1504. This portrait was made after a life study that Dürer drew when Frederick resided in Nuremburg during the winter of 1522–1523. The Latin inscription reads: “He was dedicated to Christ and loved the word of God with great piety, worthy to be revered by posterity”. Here, in one of the finest of Dürer’s late engravings, the artist took great care with the details, down to the reflection of a window in the sitter's eyes.