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Albrecht Dürer’s inventiveness and intellect are evident in his prints; he often used visual symbols to add layers of meaning to his works. Dürer’s contemporaries would have recognized the deeper meanings of the animals, plants, tools, and other seemingly insignificant details in his prints.
Scholars have long worked to decode complex images such as Knight, Death, and the Devil and Melencolia I by investigating the symbols that are depicted within them. This form of investigation, known as iconography, identifies and interprets visual signs in works of art to better understand them. The historical meaning behind Dürer’s symbols could be lost on contemporary audiences. This page is meant to help decode some of these symbols. It is only one way, among many, to interpret Dürer’s images.
Click on each work to discover what its symbols would have meant to Dürer’s audience.