There are quite a few paintings out there in the wide world. But only a handful become seen as masterpieces. Dürer’s Young Hare is one of them, a simple watercolour that now lives in Vienna’s Albertina museum.
- Renaissance masterpiece and one of the most famous paintings in Vienna
- Rarely on display: the next opportunity is the 2019 Dürer exhibition
- See also: Albertina tickets & visitor info
Dürer completed the painting in 1502 and we can thank Emperor Rudolf II for bringing it under Habsburg ownership later that century.
Just to put the date of origin into perspective; Henry VIII of England had yet to marry any of his six wives, and the Mona Lisa was just a blank wood panel in a Florence art supplies catalogue.
The Albertina is rightly proud of its animal portrait, as you can tell if you ever visit the museum shop, which is not short of a few hare-themed souvenirs. Dürer’s work is certainly the museum’s most renowned possession and I’d rank it as the second most important piece of art in Vienna, after Klimt’s Kiss.
It’s a relatively small watercolour, at around 25 cm by 22.5 cm, with just the hare and little else. I’ll leave it to the experts to describe the artistic qualities, but it makes quite an impact when you actually see it.
Apart from the simple idea that it’s over 500 years old, there’s the detail – the individual hairs, shades and colours that combine to produce a near-photographic quality to the painting. The accuracy of the bone structure. The quiet reverence of surrounding onlookers knowing they’re seeing something rare and beautiful. And the eyes – expressive and including a reflection of a window within.
Then, of course, there’s also Dürer’s iconic AD mark below the animal, like a marketing logo from a time when a brand was something you found on cattle.
How can I see the Hare?
You can’t. Well, sometimes you can.
Dürer’s Hare is a sensitive and precious thing, so the Albertina does not have it on permanent display. Instead, it’s stored away under careful conditions to ensure its preservation for future generations.
However, it wouldn’t be worth preserving at all if we couldn’t see it now and then. And so it pops out for a million Instagram photos every five years or so. The next opportunity is at the Dürer exhibition running from Sept 20, 2019 to Jan 6, 2020.