Check out this Durer altarpiece! (Click for bigger size.)
I am not kidding about the “hardbitten” thing. It looks like St. George and St. Eustace have been riding all day, want a beer bad, and wouldn’t be above a brawl in the tavern if anybody gives them reason. Check out St. Eustace’s riding boots; even they say the same thing. And check out that dragon… or rather, that ex-dragon!
Apparently, somebody named Paumgartner must have told Durer they didn’t want any wimpy-looking saints, and he must have taken it as a challenge….
The altarpiece was commissioned by a couple of Paumgartner brothers (not the religious kind) who had just come back from a pilgrimage to Jerusalem and wanted to make a thank-offering. I don’t know why they went to Jerusalem (I hope they didn’t murder anybody in a tavern brawl!), but apparently the dangers of the journey didn’t make them look much like St. Francis. Anyway, Durer did something radical and modelled St. George after Stephan Paumgartner and St. Eustace after Lukas Paumgartner; their whole family is depicted as a group elsewhere on the altarpiece, in the corners of the Nativity panel in the center. Mom could take somebody out, with those rosary beads. But actually, in closeup it looks like Lukas had a softer side, which is probably why Durer is a great artist and I’m not.
It’s weird to see the Nativity from behind, isn’t it?