The World in Time

Philip Hoare

Friday, September 17, 2021

Back of Saint Jerome, by Albrecht Dürer, c. 1496. National Gallery, London.

“Hidden round the back of Albrecht Dürer’s St. Jerome of 1494, one of his first paintings…is this enormous star,” Philip Hoare writes in Albert and the Whale: Albrecht Dürer and How Art Imagines Our World. “You would have seen it only if you knew its secret: the galactic event going on, on the other side. Radiating orange-red rays, careering through the perpetual night. A thing of darkness created in light.” Why did Dürer paint it? “On the night of November 7, 1492, a large meteorite fell to earth outside the village of Ensisheim, accompanied by crashing thunder and lightning as it hurtled through the clouds. It was visible and audible 150 kilometers away. Only one witness, a young boy, saw it actually plunge into the field; but Dürer, abed nearby in Basel that night, could certainly have heard it…I don’t know if Dürer visited it, but his emperor Maximilian did; he declared it a wonder of God and chipped off a piece for himself. The meteorite might have been the rock with which Jerome beat himself, or an emblem of the New World. But more than anything, it was a sign of Dürer’s genius, as if that little panel he had painted was an announcement of his explosive talent.”


In this episode of The World in Time, Lewis H. Lapham and Philip Hoare discuss Dürer’s brilliance, what his art meant to people throughout history, and the centuries-long ubiquity of his woodcut of a rhinoceros—an animal the artist had never seen.


Lewis H. Lapham speaks with Philip Hoare, author of Albert and the Whale: Albrecht Dürer and How Art Imagines Our World.


Thanks to our generous donors. Lead support for this podcast has been provided by Elizabeth “Lisette” Prince. Additional support was provided by James J. “Jimmy” Coleman Jr.

Discussed in this episode

Cover of Albert and the Whale by Philip Hoare

More Podcasts

President Gerald Ford taking questions from reporters during a press conference at the White House, 1975. Photograph by Marion S. Trikosko.

January 01, 2021

The World in Time:

Harold Holzer

Lewis H. Lapham speaks with the author of The Presidents vs. the Press: The Endless Battle between the White House and the Media—from the Founding Fathers to Fake News. More

June 28, 2011

The World in Time:

Another House Divided

Lewis Lapham talks with historian Amanda Foreman about Britain’s role in the American Civil War. More

April 02, 2021

The World in Time:

Dennis C. Rasmussen

Lewis H. Lapham speaks with the author of Fears of a Setting Sun: The Disillusionment of America’s Founders. More

August 11, 2011

The World in Time:

Vicars of Christ

Lewis Lapham talks with historian John Julius Norwich about one of the most successful institutions the world has ever known. More

Lady in Colonial Dress Striking a Gentleman with Her Fan, by Thure de Thulstrup, 1895.

June 25, 2021

The World in Time:

Alan Taylor

Lewis H. Lapham speaks with the author of American Republics: A Continental History of the United States, 1783–1850. More

Rehab Hiding the Spies in Jericho, c. 1405. The J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles. Digital image courtesy of the Getty’s Open Content Program.

July 13, 2018

The World in Time:

Roland Philipps

Lewis H. Lapham talks with Roland Philipps, author of A Spy Named Orphan: The Enigma of Donald Maclean. More