Back in the fifteenth century, in a tiny village near Nuremberg, lived a family with eighteen children. Eighteen! In order merely to keep food on the table for this mob, the father and head of the household, a goldsmith by profession, worked almost eighteen hours a day at his trade and any other paying chore he could find in the neighborhood.
Despite their seemingly hopeless condition, two of
Albrecht Durer the Elder's children had a dream. They
both wanted to pursue their talent for art, but they
knew full well that their father would never be
financially able to send either of them to Nuremberg to
study at the Academy.
They tossed a coin on a Sunday morning after church. Albrecht Durer won the toss and went off to Nuremberg. Albert went down into the dangerous mines and, for the next four years, financed his brother, whose work at the academy was almost an immediate sensation. Albrecht's etchings, his woodcuts, and his oils were far better than those of most of his professors, and by the time he graduated, he was beginning to earn considerable fees for his commissioned works.
When the young artist returned to his
village, the Durer family held a festive dinner on their
lawn to celebrate Albrecht's triumphant homecoming.
After a long and memorable meal, punctuated with music
and laughter, Albrecht rose from his honored position at
the head of the table to drink a toast to his beloved
brother for the years of sacrifice that had enabled
Albrecht to fulfill his ambition. His closing words
were, "And now, Albert, blessed brother of mine, now it
is your turn. Now you can go to Nuremberg to pursue your
dream, and I will take care of you."
He glanced down the long table at the
faces he loved, and then, holding his hands close to his
right cheek, he said softly, "No, brother. I cannot go
to Nuremberg. It is too late for me. Look ... look what
four years in the mines have done to my hands! The bones
in every finger have been smashed at least once, and
lately I have been suffering from arthritis so badly in
my right hand that I cannot even hold a glass to return
your toast, much less make delicate lines on parchment
or canvas with a pen or a brush. No, brother ... for me
it is too late."