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Guillaume Koller (1829-85)

The Summons Signed and dated 1860

Oil on panel | 67.7 x 91.8 cm (support, canvas/panel/stretcher external) | RCIN 406239

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  • In 1520 Albrecht Dürer left Nuremberg with his wife for a year-long trip to the Netherlands. This painting recreates a scene from that trip, as imagined by the nineteenth-century Austrian artist Guillaume Koller. Dürer wrote in his travel journal: ‘Margaret sent after me to Brussels and promised she would speak on my behalf to King Charles, and has shown herself quite exceptionally kind to me’. He is referring to Margaret of Austria (1480–1530), who was Governor of the Habsburg Netherlands at the time of Dürer’s visit; her nephew, the future Charles V, was Holy Roman Emperor.

    Dürer is the central figure, wearing a long, fur-lined gown, his famous hair curling over his shoulders. He holds a blue folder of drawings and is handed a letter by a nobleman. The figures on the left are gathered around a table to look at the artist’s sketches. The woman closest to Dürer, who probably represents his wife, Agnes, wears clothing inspired by his sketches of Nuremberg women of c. 1500 – a cape-like black gollar and a linen veil (or steuchlein). The others are probably Hans Ebner, the Ambassador in Brussels, and his wife, with whom the couple stayed for seven nights. The room is decorated with linenfold wood panelling, a Turkish carpet and two paintings, a Virgin and Child with Saints and a portrait of Philip I of Castile.

    Dürer subsequently visited Margaret of Austria in Mechlin, where he viewed her collection of paintings and books and presented her with ‘a whole set of all my works, and have drawn her two pictures on parchment with the greatest pains and care’. She was, however, to prove herself an unreliable and ungenerous patron. At the end of his description of his time in the Netherlands, Dürer writes: ‘In all my doings, spendings, sales, and other dealings in the Netherlands, in all my affairs with high and low, I have suffered loss, and Lady Margaret in particular gave me nothing for what I gave her and did for her’. It is interesting that in the nineteenth century Dürer’s fame was legendary, yet Koller has chosen to show a scene that does not highlight the artist’s success.

    Guillaume Koller was born in Vienna and studied at the Academy there under Ferdinand Georg Waldmüller (1793–1865). As in this example, his paintings usually draw from sixteenth-century German history. The Summons was purchased by Prince Albert at the Brussels Exhibition in October 1860 where it was described as ‘Albert Durer, logé a Bruxelles chez Hans Ebner, reçoit un message de Marguerite de Parme, gouvernante des Pays-Bas. (1521)’. It was given to Queen Victoria as a Christmas present that year.

    Text adapted from Portrait of the Artist, London, 2016

    Given to Queen Victoria by Prince Albert, 1860. [Victoria & Albert: Art & Love, London, 2010, pg 460]

    Purchased at the Brussels Exhibition, September 1860 {WRA PP2/46.1190}

  • Medium and techniques

    Oil on panel


    67.7 x 91.8 cm (support, canvas/panel/stretcher external)

    105.5 x 129.5 x 13.5 cm (frame, external)

  • Alternative title(s)

    Albrecht Dürer (1471-1824) receiving a summons from the ambassador of Margaret of Austria (1480-1530), Regent of the Netherlands.