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May 08, 2018 Tuesday 01:22:00 PM IST

ALBERT DURER and ALBRECHT DURER were brothers. They were emerging talents in fine arts. Natives of Nuremburg, Germany, both wanted to study at the prestigious Academy of Fine Arts in their hometown. However, their father, a goldsmith, could not afford to send them there. Moreover, he had sixteen other children to take care of.


Late one night after a painstaking brainstorming session, Albert and Albrecht came up with a master plan. It was to support each other for their studies. Accordingly, one would work and support the studies of the other for four years. Then after he graduated, he would work and finance the studies of the other. The plan looked good. And they decided to cast lots to pick the one who would go for studies first.


After attending church services in the morning on a Sunday, they cast lots and the younger brother Albrecht was the lucky winner. Soon he joined the Academy of Fine Arts while his brother, Albert, went to work in the coal mines to support him as formerly agreed upon.


As Albrecht was a supremely gifted artist he became a sensation at the Arts Academy. When he completed his diploma at the Academy of Fine Arts there was no one in Germany who could be a match for him. He was, in fact, the uncrowned king in painting portraits and landscapes as well as in engraving and printmaking.


Albrecht was given a royal reception by his family and friends when he returned home with his esteemed diploma in fine arts. At that time, Albrecht thanked everyone especially his brother, Albert.


Proposing a toast for his brother who made unimaginable sacrifices to support his studies Albrecht said it was time for him to keep his side of the bargain. And he suggested that his brother should not lose any more time and enroll himself at the Academy of Fine Arts and that he would finance his studies.


Everybody turned to look at Albert. Slowly rising from his seat and wiping tears that began to well up he thanked his brother for his eagerness to keep his side of the bargain. Then looking at his close knit family and friends he said, “It is too late for me now to study fine arts. Look at my bruised and shriveled hands. Four years of work in the coal mines has taken a toll on my hands and my body. Moreover, severe arthritis has crept in. Now I can’t even hold a brush straight. But it is alright.”


While everybody listened to him in stunned silence he continued, “I am not unhappy. On the contrary I am happy. I am happy because I could help you realise your much cherished dream. And in you I see the fulfilment of my own dreams. So, don’t feel bad. You enrich the world with your God-given talents. It will bring me joy.”


This is exactly what Albrecht Durer (1471-1528) did. He worked hard doing hundreds of portraits, landscapes, woodcuts, engravings, and altar pieces which brought him fame as well as wealth. Among his many outstanding art works include his world-famous pen-and-ink drawing known as ‘Praying Hands’ which is kept at Albertina Museum in Vienna, Austria.


Albrecht drew this picture as part of an altar piece in Frankfurt, Germany. However, it is popularly believed that when he drew this picture he was actually engraving the memory of the bruised and shrivelled hands of his brother who worked in coal mines to support him for his studies. If this is what he actually did, then he was only proclaiming to the whole world that he was what he was also because of his brother who broke his back to support him.


We are not alone in this world. And we cannot succeed alone in this world. It is only because there are others there for us that we are able to succeed in life. Children need the constant love and support of their parents throughout their life.


Similarly, parents need the love and support of their children. The siblings also need support from each other. Moreover, everyone needs ongoing help from all quarters for their survival and success.


What this means is, we should never forget that others need our help just like we need their help always in small matters as well as in big things. The moment we ignore the help others had given us once we find success in our life we begin to become less human than others. And it will make us disregard the genuine needs of others. On the contrary, if we are aware of the role others play in our life to make our life happy and successful then we will never neglect to help others in their needs.


Albrecht was always grateful to his brother who helped him become what he was. Similarly, we should also never forget the many helping hands in our life. Instead, while remaining grateful to everyone who helps us in any way we should also reach out to others who need our help and support for their success and happiness in life.

Fr. Jose Panthaplamthottiyil, CMI

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