Albrecht Durer once said, “I hold that perfection of form and beauty is contained in the sum of all man.” For over five hundred years, historians and collectors alike have held the opinion that this perfection and beauty is contained in the sum of his body of work.Born nineteen years after Leonardo da Vinci and a mere four years before Michelangelo, Albrecht Durer was revered by those of the Italian Renaissance, such as Giovanni Bellini and Andreas Montegna. Even Ferdinand Columbus, the (illegitimate) son of Christopher Columbus collected one hundred seventy-four of Albrecht Durer’s prints.Had his body of work just consisted of his two thousand drawings or over one hundred paintings and alter pieces and three published books on theoretical subjects, that would be enough to place him in the pantheon of those who were known as true Renaissance men (and women).But it is Albrecht Durer’s print oeuvre of over two hundred fifty woodcuts and one hundred five intaglios that changed the course of artistic history. Know as the “Apelles of the black lines”, Albrecht Durer was the first in western art to be both the artist and the publisher with his great woodcut cycle, the Apocalypse. In other words, he was the first graphic artist in western art.To put this in perspective, Magellan was the first to sail around the world; or the Wright brothers were first at flight; or Yeager was the first to break the sound barrier; or Armstrong was the first to step on the moon; or Bandaraike was the first woman to be elected Chancellor of any country; but, Durer was the first to understand the importance of freeing himself from the lucrative but demanding shackles of commission work and take his reproductive art on paper to market!No small task when you consider who was to follow: Rembrandt, Whistler, Cassatt, Picasso, Dali, Miro, Chagall, Warhol.This is not a debate as to who was the best, the most prolific, or the most gifted. I know for sure it is certainly not me. As much as I appreciate art I could not find a straight line with a ruler!This is simply a discourse as to who was the first to commit their work to reproductive prints in western art; and, according to the scholars who possess far more education, expertise and scholarship than myself (but certainly not passion), it is the Renaissance man, Albrecht Durer.
If you’re looking for the perfect way to kick off the fall season, a vacation in Venice, one of Italy’s richest cities both culturally and historically, is sure to hit the spot. Venice is world-famous, among many things, for its beautiful Gothic style architecture, ornate glass work, annual Carnival of Venice (for which participants don elaborate masks and costumes) and Grand Canal, the banks of which are lined with more than 150 centuries-old buildings. Home to some of the most famous composers the world has ever known – from Antonio Vivaldi to Giovanni Picchi – the city has been the setting for such renowned works of literature as Othello and movies including The Italian Job.Set roughly 240 miles from Rome, it is home to St. Mark’s Basilica, which lies on Piazza San Marco; the Rialto Bridge, one of four bridges spanning the Grand Canal; and Ca’ Rezzonico, a public museum that boasts a vast collection of 18th century Venetian art. One of the city’s most alluring attributes is that it is uber-pedestrian friendly. Interestingly, vehicles are not permitted within the city of Venice, which is actually made up of a group of islands. Instead, people get around by foot or boat. While it may seem odd at first blush, the fact there are no cars, buses, or motorcycles on Venice’s narrow streets means more room to stroll around and take in the historic environs.Among Venice’s architectural gems are its grand hotels, some of which are ideally set in the heart of the old city. Hotel Ateneo Venice, only minutes away from Piazza San Marco and La Fenice Theatre, couples the charm of a 17th century Venetian residence with a full spectrum of modern amenities. If you want to be far removed from the hustle and bustle of Venice, you can head to the centrally located Locanda La Corte Venice, whose courtyard makes the perfect setting for an early morning breakfast or an evening of wining and dining under the stars. And only a short walk from the Rialto Bridge and St. Mark’s Square is Casa Santa Maria Formosa, which delights travelers with its striking neo-gothic design, intimate rooms and sweeping canal views.If getting up close with nature is high on your wish list, look no further than Best Western Villa Mabapa on the island of Lido. This elegant Art Nouveau style villa lies immersed in a lush garden laden with flowers and overlooks the Venetian Lagoon. A private beach, 18 hole golf course and scores of elegant shops are also just minutes away. (Art and film buffs will appreciate that the Venice Film Festival is held here every September.) Other noteworthy properties on the Lido include the Quattro Fontane Hotel – of which noted English poet Robert Browning was a frequent patron – and the budget-friendly Helvetia Hotel, which was originally built as a restaurant and tobacco shop in the 1920s.Whether your idea of a perfect vacation includes communing with nature or soaking up art and history, Venice teems with great surprises around every corner.