The Masterpiece

Here’s the story…

He was born in the 15th century, in a tiny village in Germany. He had 17 siblings. Can you imagine? 18 children?

He was closest to one of his brothers, Albert.

They both loved art. They shared a dream of attending the Nuremberg Art Academy, but the family was far too poor to send either one to art school, so they made a pact.

They flipped a coin.

The winner would go to Nuremberg Art Academy, and the loser would go work in the local mines to pay for his brother’s training. It was terribly hard and dangerous work, but it would pay enough to make their plan work. Once graduated, the winner would then support the loser so he, too, could attend the Academy.

Albert lost, and willingly went down into the mines to support his older brother. He would labor there, up to 18 hours every day, for 4 long years.

It became apparent within weeks of his arrival at the Academy that Albrecht had a gift, a rare talent. It was clear he would be a successful artist.

With orders for his art in hand, he headed home after the 4 years, ready to fulfill his part of the pact.

His family had a huge celebration for him. The entire village joined in the festivities, for one of their own was soon to be famous, renowned for his amazing paintings.

Asked to speak, Albrecht raised a toast to his brother, Albert. He told of their pact, of Albert’s sacrifice, and, asking Albert to rise, told him it was now his turn to follow his dream, to head to Nuremberg and the Academy.

As all turned their faces to Albert, he began to weep.

In a soft voice filled with love, tears still streaming down his cheeks, he held his hands up, and then Albrecht understood.

The work in the mines had so damaged the bones in his brother’s fingers and hands that he could never hold a paint brush. In fact, he was already so crippled the damage was clear to the naked eye.

Albert’s dream was over. It had been shortly after he began supporting his brother’s dream.

Albrecht Durer went on to produce art that still hangs in many of the world’s best museums. You may not recognize his name, but I bet you know Albrecht’s most famous work.

In an attempt to pay homage to Albert for all that he had sacrificed, to compensate for a debt that could never, ever be repaid, Albrecht drew his brother’s hands, with palms together, as if in prayer.

800px Albrecht Durer Praying Hands 1508 Google Art Project


Every great work of art has emotion within it. That’s one of the best parts of art: It helps us feel what we may not be able to express.

What’s your masterpiece?

I can tell you this: If it doesn’t make you feel, it won’t make others feel.