January 9, 2005


The beauty and power of prayer: The inspiration lives on in art and music (MICHAEL COREN, 12/24/04, The Toronto Sun)

Albrecht Durer was born in the late 15th century in a small mining village near Nuremberg in Germany.

One of 18 children, he saw his father work 18-hour days simply to put bread on the table. Yet for all this, Albrecht and his brother Albert shared a dream. They wanted to go to art school.

It was obvious to the boys that they would never be able to afford such an education. They had an idea. One of them would work in the mines and pay for the other to go to college. When the student returned, he in turn would become a miner and pay for his brother to have an education.

They tossed a coin and Albrecht won. Off he went to the city, while his brother started long and dangerous work deep under the ground. For four years, one brother studied painting, drawing and sketching, while the other dug and clawed at the very earth.

When Albrecht returned to the village the local people held a feast to celebrate. The young artist thanked everybody, drank their good health and then made a speech of thanks to his brother. And now, he said, it is your turn to go to college and mine to work in your place. "Pursue your dream and I will take care of you."

There was a pause, a prolonged silence. Albert looked thoughtful, even in pain. Suddenly he began to cry. The tears poured down his lined, hardened face and this tough, strong man seem to become a delicate child.

"No, brother, I cannot go. Look at what four years in the mines have done to my hands! The bones in every finger have been smashed at least once, and lately I have been suffering from arthritis so badly that I cannot even hold a glass, much less make delicate lines on canvas with a brush. No, brother, for me it is too late."

The unfairness of life

Albrecht began to cry as well. He ran to his brother and embraced him. Two men weeping, for one another and for the agony and unfairness of life. All around them the people of the village lowered their eyes in respect and began to pray.

To pray. Which is what the Durer brothers also did. And as Albrecht saw his brother in prayer he realized why he had been sent to art college and what he now had to do.

He sat down to immortalize those broken yet perfect hands of his brother, to capture their praying beauty forever.

Five hundred years later, we regard Durer as one of the finest artists of the Renaissance and a true genius. There are some critics who doubt the authenticity of the story of the artist's brother, but even these cynics cannot deny that "The Praying Hands" has been seen by millions and will continue to inspire until the end of time.

Posted by Orrin Judd at January 9, 2005 12:30 PM

Wonderful story, thanks for sharing this...

Posted by: Darryl at January 10, 2005 12:59 AM

Continue may be correct.

But for about 400 years, for some reason, it didn't.

I had a college prof whose grandfather had bought up a ton of Durer originals around 1900 for a dollar a piece. Nobody wanted them then.

Posted by: Harry Eagar at January 10, 2005 3:28 PM