Albrecht Durer Set - 12 Color Set (2 Versions)


Albrecht Dürer (1471-1528) was a great German Renaissance artist that was famous for his portraits and engravings. His palette did not change much throughout his painting career and included the best pigments available at that time.

This watercolor palette includes all the pigments used by Dürer. There are two versions of the palette: authentic historic pigments and modern pigment substitutes. Two substitute pigment (Viridian and Rose Madder) are included in both palettes as a replacement of extremely fugitive Verdigris and Cochineal. 

Authentic palette includes original pigments used in the 15th century: Cinnabar and Lead Tin Yellow. The version with substitutes includes Rose Madder and Titanium White. All colors are in half pan size.

Additional pigment in both palettes is Ultramarine, a modern version of rare and expensive Azurite. Dürer made efforts to obtain good quality Azurite, mostly for his religious artworks, and paid large sums of money for it. Since modern mineral Azurite looks less blue and saturated than the one in Dürer's paintings, adding modern Ultramarine helps represent his colors.

The watercolor palette represents colors that the artist used to create his major artworks. Dürer was a successful artist and entrepreneur and he traveled around Europe to meet with patrons, to study art (e.g. in Italy), and to sell his engravings and prints. Dürer was the first artist who made his drawings available to the general public. He used the woodblock printing method to replicate his drawings for sale at markets. Although he was patronized and sponsored by Emperor Maximilian I, he understood that to gain popularity and to be recognized, more people need to see and own his works. One woodblock could produce around 12 000 prints and Dürer created over 300 different woodcuts during his career. Average people were buying his prints (mostly with religious themes) to decorate their dwellings (a new trend at that time). Dürer had the financial ability and mobility to seek and try the best pigments available at the time. The most expensive one was Ultramarine (bright blue Azurite only used to paint the Virgin Mary’s clothes). Dürer bought it during his trips around Europe and used it for the paintings he did for the Emperor and other wealthy patrons. In the 1500s, one ounce of ultramarine cost 12 florins or 30 grams of gold. If we convert the cost of Renaissance ultramarine to a modern dollar value using the cost of gold (rate is $57.59 per 1 gram today), we get $1,727.70 per one ounce (28 grams) of pure Ultramarine. There is a record of Dürer asking his patron to pay a higher price for a painting because he used Ultramarine to paint it. In his notes, Dürer wrote that he usually used less expensive blue azurite for an underpainting and only used valuable ultramarine on the top layers, where I could be visible. 

Dürer’s palette is especially interesting because he used a limited amount of high-quality pigments vs. all pigments available at the time. 

For example, there were several popular earth pigments that Dürer likely did not use with his major palette - Burnt Sienna, Red Ocher, Raw Sienna, and some others. It is clear that he preferred fewer bright pure colors that he could tone down vs. more of subdue earth colors (like Rembrandt who used majority of earth tones with only two bright pigments, Azurite and Cinnabar).