Elizabeth Garner – Discovering the Dürer Cipher: Hidden Secrets In Plain Sight, Part 2

Secret codes in Melancholia

In this second article of Discovering the Dürer Cipher: Hidden Secrets In Plain Sight, we will focus on one of Dürer ’s strange prints to demonstrate at a high level some basics of how the Dürer Cipher works. Believed to have been published in 1498, there is no previous historical consensus about the meaning of this print and we have no evidence what Dürer titled this image.

Secret Codes in the Temptation of the Idler

Temptation of the Idler

The name of the full image, shown on the left, has often changed over the centuries. It has been called “a man sleeping in a bath, with Venus inspiring his dreams,” “Mars and Venus,” “The Temptation of the Idler,” the “Dream of the Doctor,” and what I think is the weirdest of all, the famous 20th century Dürer scholar, Erwin Panofsky, related this print to a Roman legend about boccia.


Let’s look at the symbols in the composition. The stove on the left is a Hungarian stove, as is the wooden chest behind the woman. These are Hungarian signifiers, significant clues that tell us Dürer is indicating something Hungarian and his Hungarian ancestry (by his father). Look closely at the enlargement of the grate beneath the man’s feet in the middle of the collage, it is the symbol of St. Lawrence (he was martyred on a grate), signifying this man’s name is Lawrence. The naked woman (it appears Dürer used nudity for marketing purposes only) wears a ring on her left hand pinky, lower right of the collage, a symbol of St. Catherine, signifying her name is Catherine. The little boy, middle bottom of the collage, has eagle wings reminiscent of the eagle wings of the Dürer coat of arms, and the boy plays with stilts, a symbol associated with St. Nicholas, signifying his name is Niklas. The boy plays next to another Hungarian signifier, the Hungarian tribute ball (not the Italian Renaissance symbol interpreted as a symbol representing Fortune or Fate), indicating that Dürer was giving tribute to these people. In the upper portion of the collage, there is a dragon (it doesn’t have horns), not a devil, putting the end of a bellows into the man’s ear, the same type of dragon we find in Dürer ’s father’s coat of arms, who was known as Albrecht the Elder, a goldsmith.

Who were Lawrence, Catherine, and Nicholas? Dürer’s relatives.

This composition is a tribute to a branch of the Dürer family that remained in Hungary after Dürer’s father emigrated to Nuremberg. Ladislas Dürer (Ladislas is Hungarian for Lawrence), Dürer’s uncle, was a saddler who used bellows in his work (the dragon holds a bellows), his wife was named Catherine, and Niklas was their son, apprenticed as a goldsmith to Dürer’s father. Niklas grew up with Dürer in his father’s household and was his favorite cousin. It is probable that Dürer made this tribute composition because Uncle Larry had died, and he disguised this homage to make the print more commercially saleable.


To date, I have found encoding in at least 60 of 335 of Dürer’s graphic prints and unraveled their messages. However, my recent discoveries suggest the probability that more coded messages exist in additional images. And even more astonishing was discovering that he exploited subliminal sexual imagery in prints to cause people to notice hidden messages. In my next article, I will reveal some more astounding encodings that I have found, all of which have been hiding in plain sight. To be continued!

Best wishes,


IN – March-April Cover-1


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