Lucas Van Leyden 1521 Drawing
Lucas Van Leyden 1521 Drawing

Copyright March 23, 2014 All Rights Reserved, contribution by Gary Hind

Dürer Ciphering being Passed On

What you see above you is the largest image I could find of Lucas van Leyden’s drawing of St. Jerome, which mimics Dürer’s St. Jerome depictions.  The ciphering is found on the left with the Christ Figure and in the lettering of the title.

How did van Leyden and Dürer Meet?

The two artists met in Antwerp, when Dürer was on his Netherlands Journey and relocating his business headquarters to Antwerp.  They became very good friends and Dürer drew van Leyden’s portrait as a gift

1521 Drawing of Lucas van Leyden by Dürer

Who was Lucas Van Leyden?

Lucas van Leyden was the son of artist Hugo Jacobsz of Leiden. He was apprenticed first in his father’s studio, and later to the painter Cornelis Engebrechtsz. Van Leyden’s development as an artist was fast and furious and he soon emerged as a successful painter and engraver.

In 1521, Dürer had a profound effect on van Leyden’s work because of Dürer’s compositions and use of chiaroscuro. Van Leyden was also fascinated by prints based on Rafael’s work, who also was a great friend of Dürer; they often exchanged artworks. From these, van Leyden learned to depict the human physique with anatomical accuracy and in all kinds of positions. In addition to drawings and paintings, Van Leyden also made woodcuts and experimented with etching techniques. He developed a completely individual style, characterised by the distinctive physiognomy of his faces. He died a lingering death at the age of 39 from tuberculosis.

The Ciphering

When you look at van Leyden’s St. Jerome in the inscription and at the Christ figure, you find almost exact Dürer Ciphering being used.  With the Christ figure you see that the letters over the cross are NOT INRI, as they should be but very different lettering passing a message.  Also, if you look at the right hand arm of the Christ near the armpit, you will see a very large “Y” symbol with a tail to the right, and Christ has an erect penis, a common Cipher trick Dürer did often. Christ’s right hand on the cross has some very weird message on it, which looks like two stick figures, but certainly not a hand.

When you look at the inscription, you see the “H” symbol with the horseshoe “U” cup in the bar of the “H” except van Leyeden uses it in the exact opposite of the way Dürer does; Dürer’s H crossbars with the U are always in the opposite direction.  Here is the colophon of the VP edition of the Nuremberg Chronicles published for the author, Hartmann Schedel, in June 1493, with the H bar “up”

The HARTMANN SCHEDEL colophon of June 1493 with the H bar horseshoe cup pointing up.


Bookplate for Scheurl made by Dürer. Notice all the crossbars have the horseshoe upside down to normal
Bookplate for Scheurl made by Dürer. Notice all the crossbars have the horseshoe upside down to normal

Also notice that in the inscription, a number of the letters have very long serifs and van Leyden appears to be copying part of the ciphering used in Margret’s self-portrait, as he is combining upper case letters with with a lower case “i” with a dot in the inscription. And some other weird symbols included. Hieronymous is even spelled incorrectly.

Who could van Leyden be messaging and why?












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