The Secrets of National Treasure III Part 1 – The Haller Madona, What’s in a Coat of Arms?

Copyright by Dr. Elizabeth Garner, all rights reserved worldwide, September 18, 2013

durer albrecht haller maddona sex merchant marks Nuremberg
The 1498 Haller Madonna with the original ingsignia in the lower right hand corner

With all due respect to all the world museums that have title to magnificant Albrecht Dürer oil paintings (especially the Prado), it appears the Haller Madonna and the painting painted on the back of the Madonna, known as Lot and his Family Fleeing Sodom, owned by the National Gallery of Art in Washington, D.C. may be the most important paintings that Albrecht Dürer created, for these two paintings are so heavily intertwined in their meanings and are so heavily encoded together, there is no other Albrecht Dürer painting that comes close to this level of encoding.

Please notice the emblem in the lower right hand corner in this version of the painting.

The following is the official provenance history of this painting as known by the National Gallery of Art and published on their website

“Probably a member of the Haller family, Nuremberg.[1] Possibly Paul von Praun [d. 1616] and descendants, Nuremberg, until at least 1778.[2] Charles à Court Repington [d. 1925], Amington Hall, Warwickshire; sold to Mrs. Phyllis Loder, London.[3] (sale, Christie’s, London, 29 April 1932, no. 51, as Bellini); (Vaz Dias.)[4] Baron Heinrich Thyssen-Bornemisza [1875-1947], Villa Favorita, Lugano-Castagnola, by 1934. (Pinakos, Inc. [Rudolf Heinemann] on consignment to M. Knoedler & Co., New York, 1950);[5] purchased 1950 by the Samuel H. Kress Foundation, New York; gift 1952 by exchange to NGA.

[1] From the coat-of-arms at the lower left, there would seem to be little doubt that the Gallery’s panel was first owned and probably executed for a member of the Haller family of Nuremberg; see Otto Titan von Hefner and Gustav Adelbert Seyler, die Wappen des bayerischen Adels. J. Siebmacher’s grosses Wappenbuch. 34 vols. (Neustadt an der Aisch, 1971) 22: 38, pl. 36, and additional information in NGA manuscript for systematic catalogue number 5 on German painting, entry on Madonna and Child by Dürer. The Hallers were one of Nuremberg’s largest and most influential patrician families, but our inability to identify the coat-of-arms at the lower right renders it all but impossible to find a candidate. The direction of the Haller arms is reversed so that it may “respect” the arms of what is presumed to be the wife’s family at the lower right; see Gustav A. Seyler, “die Orientirung der Wappen”, Geschichte der Heraldik. J. Siebmacher’s grosses Wappenbuch. vols. A-G (Neustadt an der Aisch, 1970) A: 454-487, and letter of 16 April 1988 from Walter Angst to John Hand in NGA curatorial file. Anzelewsky raised the possibility that the panel was painted for Wilhelm Haller (d. 1534) whose second marriage to Dorothea Landauer took place in 1497; see Fedja Anzelewsky, Albrecht Dürer Das malerische Werk. (Berlin, 1971), 142. On the other hand, Sally E. Mansfield suggested, in a report in the NGA curatorial file, Hieronymus II Haller (d. 1519) who married Catharina Wolf von Wolfstal in 1419.”

The current expert on Patricians, Peter Fleischmann, Rat und Patriziat in Nürnberg, Nürenberger Forschungen, ISBN 978-3-87191-33-4, published in 2009, provided flowcharts of the convoluted intermarriages among the Nuremberg families with this three volume set of enormous scholarship for which I have exceptional respect for all the work he did.

There are six “linies (lines)” of Hallers that could have commissioned this painting.

Konrad IV of the “Konrad linie” who married Barbara Ortoloph in 1487

Hieronymus I Haller of the “Franz linie” who married  Anna Nützel in 1448 (this lower right hand emblem is  not her arms), Barbara Zollner in 1455 (these are not the Zollner arms) and Martha Pessler in 1469 (these are not her arms).
Hans Rupprich, who compiled all of Dürer’s writings in 1956, with many commentaries, is still considered the expert on this compilation of writings. (Dürer Schriftlicher Nachlass, Deutscher Verein für Kuntswissenschaft, Berlin 1956.) Prior to 1863, when a researcher, on dubious evidence, changed Barbara Dürerin’s name to Holper, the original translation in the Family Chronicle, the supposed autobiography written by Dürer in 1524, translated Barbara’s maiden name as Haller. In Rupprich’s footnote #16, on page 32 of the first volume, Rupprich notes that Nach F. Fuhse, Mitteilungen aud dem Germanischen Nationalmuseum Jg. 1896, pg. 120 indicates that the families Dürer and Freys were already related by marriage via a Haller marriage.
Ruprecht II of the Hauptlinie (Main line) got divided into the Peter, Wilhelm and Wolf linies.  Ruprecht II married Anna Münzer in 1483 but that emblem is definitely not the Münzer arms; HOWEVER, THE CRITICAL INFORMATION ON RUPRECHT II is that he was the one who went to Hungary to start up the  Haller businesses, and there the trail is lost.  At some point someone from this linie married a Durer if Fuhse is correct (probably in Hungary) which is how the Durer’s and the Frey’s were related before Al’s and Agnes’ marriage, through a Haller, and thus the connection to Rummel, Agnes grandfather, comes thru Anna Zollner (but these are not her arms).
There is also Jobst II Haller of the Jakob linie who married Katharina Peringsdoreffer and who knows what her arms were?
The final Haller could have been Wolf III of the Wolf Linie who married Ursula Koberger in 1491 and these are not the arms of Koberger.
But now check out the Haller Madonna with the lower right hand emblem as it exists now:
durer albrecht haller madonna sex subversion nuremberg renaissance apocalypse
The Haller Madonna with the lower right hand emblem painted over from the original
No one knows who’s coat of arms this paint over belongs to either, but this how the painting now stands.
However, no one has realized that in the original version the lower right emblem was not a coat of arms at all.  It was a merchant’s mark.
Here’s examples of Nuremberg merchant marks from the period:
                                    From the Nürnberg Forshcungen, 1971 in celebration of the 500th birthday of Albrecht Düurer
What was originally published in the Haller Madonna in the lower right was a wild man supporter, a very common Germanic folk image used often for coats of arms with a merchant mark embedded in the shield.  Was it Dürer’s merchant mark?  Possibly but unlikely.  He may have had the audacity of including his own merchant mark(s) symbol as a monogram, which the Hallers would probably have had painted over asap or they could have been so please, they kept it. More than likely it represents a logo or logos of the Haller’s businesses.  That would not have been offensive to the Hallers.
In any case, someone didn’t like and had it painted over, as it stands now.  Onto the rest of the secrets in these two paintings next time.


Best Wishes,

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