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Neudörfer (or Neudörffer), Johannes (i.e., Johann), der Ältere

Date born: October 1497

Place Born: Nuremberg [Nürnberg], [modern Germany]

Date died: November 12, 1563

Place died: Nuremberg, Germany

Author of an early manuscript biography of German artists. Neudörfer's father was a successful furrier and business person, Stephan Neudörffer. As an adult, Johann earned his living as a teacher of mathematics and geometry; his interest and contemporary fame rested on his renoun as a calligrapher. A life-long resident of Nuremberg, he lived on the same street as and was well acquainted with the artist Albrecht Dürer until Dürer's move in 1509. Dürer likely appreciated Neudörfer's calligraphy skills; the lettering in Dürer's woodcuts, "Map of the Eastern Hemisphere" (1515), the portrait of Ulrich Varnbüler (1522), the Four Apostles painting (1526) and the Triumphal Arch of Emperor Maximilian I (1515) employ Neudörfer's distinctive script. In 1519 Neudörfer published a writing manual, Fundament … seinen Schulern zu einer Unterweysung gemacht, the first calligraphy handbook printed in Germany. He followed this with a treatise on script styles and penmanship, Eine gute Ordnung, in 1538. Two other writing treatises later appeared by him, 1544 and 1549. However, in 1547 Neudörfer wrote the work on which his posthumous fame would lie. He had always kept a close acquaintance with artists in Nuremberg. At the suggestion of a friend, he wrote (purportedly in only eight days' worth of evenings) biographical sketches of the artists he knew. The manuscript, Nachrichten von Künstlern und Werkleuten was completed three years before the first edition of Le vite de più eccellenti architetti, pittori, et scultori by Giorgio Vasari. Though Neudörfer did not intend it for publication as Vasari did, he remains the first German biographer of artists. His text is a trove of singular information about the Nuremberg’s important artists, particularly Dürer. The Nuremberg City Council hung his portrait (by Nicolas Neufchatel) in the Rathaus in 1561 to honor him. The so-called Master of the Neudörfer Portraits painted Johann and his wife in 1527 (Kassel, Schloss Wilhelmshöhe).

Neudörfer's manuscript consisted of 79 biographies of artists and workmen working the last hundred years in Nuremberg. His text circulated in copies until the nineteenth century. His Nachrichten was used (without acknowledgement) by many other biographers, including Joachim Sandrart in his Teutsche Academie (1675). The autograph copy of Neudörfer's work was extant until the 19th century and is today only known in copies. Though he claimed to have written the text in only eight days, the version of his work known today clearly was amended by later hands. Printed versions first appaered in 1822 in an edition of the Beiträge zur Kunst- und Literatur-Geschichte, edited by Joseph Heller and six years later in a copy by Andreas Gulden (1606-1683) in the collection of Frederick Campe. The first full version was published by Georg Lochner (1798-1882) in 1875. LS

Home Country: Germany

Sources: Lochner, Georg Wolfgang Karl. Des Johann Neudörfer Schreib-und Rechenmeisters zu Nürnberg Nachrichten von Künstlern und Werkleuten daselbst aus dem Jahre 1547. Vienna: W. Braumüller, 1875; Habich, Georg. Die deutschen Schaumünzen des 16. Jahrhunderts. Munich: Bruckmann, 1929-1934, vol. I, i, nos. 320–321, ii, nos. 1068, 1617; Kapr, Albert. Johann Neudörffer d. Ä., der grosse Schreibmeister der deutschen Renaissance. Leipzig: O. Harrassowitz, 1956; Smith, Jeffery Chipps. Nuremberg: A Renaissance City, 1500–1618. Austin, TX: University of TX, 1983; Kultermann, Udo. The History of Art History. New York: Abaris, 1993, p. 8; Smith, Jeffery Chipps. German Sculpture of the Later Renaissance, c. 1520–1580: Art in an Age of Uncertainty. Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1994;

Bibliography: [excerpts] in Heller, Josoph and Jäck, Joachim Heinrich. Beiträge zur Kunst- und Literatur-Geschichte. Nuremberg: Riegel und Wiesner, 1822; Campe, Friedrich. Johann Neudörffers Nachrichten von den vornehmsten Künstlern und Werkleuten so innerhalb hundert Jahren in Nürnberg gelebt haben 1546: nebst der Fortsetzung. Nuremberg: Friedrich Campe, 1828; Lochner, Georg Wolfgang Karl. Des Johann Neudörfer Schreib-und Rechenmeisters zu Nürnberg Nachrichten von Künstlern und Werkleuten daselbst aus dem Jahre 1547. Vienna: W. Braumüller, 1875.

Subject's name: Johann Neudörfer; Johann Neudörffer; Johannes Neudörfer; Johannes Neudörffer