The miniature measures only 16 by 6.5 cm and has been lying unnoticed in a book of the Oldenburg State Library for 230 years. It decorates the first page of a Greek volume printed in 1502 in Venice by Aldus Manutius (1449-1515).
The small picture features two cherubs atop two mythical sea creatures whose tongues twist to form the coat of arms (a birch tree) of Willibald Pirckheimer, Renaissance humanist, academic and good friend of Albrecht Dürer. As the coat of arms of Pirckheimer’s wife (a depiction of a double-tailed mermaid) is not included in the miniature, one can assume that the miniature was painted in the book after 1504, the year of her death.
From 1502 to 1505 Pirckheimer devoted himself in translating Greek texts into Latin, thus he may have acquired this Greek volume in that time.
According to the Oldennburg State Library press release, the “Oldenburg book painting is precisely described in a historical source of 1634 and thus the seventh Dürer miniature from this series that was rediscovered.”
In 1634, Pirckheimer’s heirs sold 14 books containing Dürer’s miniatures to a Dutch collector.